Modeling Microplastic Transport in the Marine Environment: Testing Empirical Models of Particle Terminal Sinking Velocity for Irregularly Shaped Particles
American Chemical Society
Microplastic (mP) pollution has been indicated as an area of concern in the marine environment. However, there is no consensus on their potential to cause significant ecological harm, and a comprehensive risk assessment of mP pollution is unattainable due to gaps in our understanding of their transport, uptake, and exchange processes. This research considers drag models that have been proposed to calculate the terminal settling velocity of regularly and irregularly shaped particles to assess their applicability in a mP modeling context. The evaluation indicates three models that predict the settling velocity of mPs to a high precision and suggests that an explicit model is the most appropriate for implementation in a mP transport model. This research demonstrates that the mP settling velocity does not vary significantly over time and depth relevant to the scale of an ocean model and that the terminal settling velocity is independent of the initial particle velocity. These findings contribute toward efforts to simulate the vertical transport of mPs in the ocean, which will improve our understanding of the residence time of mPs in the water column and subsequently their availability for uptake into the marine ecosystem.
Publication history: Accepted - 6 March 2023; Published online - 22 March 2023.
microplastics, transport modeling, settling velocity, drag coefficient, irregular particles, microplastic vertical transport
Coyle, R., Service, M., Witte, U., Hardiman, G. and McKinley, J. (2023) ‘Modeling Microplastic Transport in the Marine Environment: Testing Empirical Models of Particle Terminal Sinking Velocity for Irregularly Shaped Particles’, ACS ES&T Water. American Chemical Society (ACS). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsestwater.2c00466.