Presence and toxicological effects of macro- and micro-plastics in the marine environment

Microplastiche e macroplastiche rinvenute in mare

To date, one of the emerging issues worldwide is the presence of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment. The impact that large plastics, known as "macroplastics", can have on the marine environment has long been the subject of environmental research. In recent years, however, a growing concern is emerging regarding the impact caused by "microplastics" on marine organisms.
In the descriptors determining "Good Environmental Status", in addition to classic environmental contaminants, particular attention has been paid to emerging threats such as the presence of marine litter (particularly plastics) and their effects on the marine environment (Descriptor 10). The impacts of this debris on biota and the marine environment are largely unknown. Of the various intake routes through which plastic debris can enter an organism, the most common is undoubtedly ingestion: this has been documented in more than 180 animal species, including birds, fish, turtles and mammals.
In particular, this line of research - carried out in recent years by the University of Siena - aims to investigate the potential ecotoxicological impact of macroplastics (>5mm), microplastics (<5 mm), and plastic derivatives, in marine vertebrates and invertebrates. Particular attention has been paid to organisms belonging to different trophic levels in the Mediterranean Sea area: planktonic organisms, fish, sea turtles, seabirds, and cetaceans both mysticetes and odontocetes. The intent is to investigate which marine species are most exposed to the effects of these substances at both mechanical and chemical levels (phthalates and bisphenol A), the latter being highly underestimated to date. Plastic debris, in addition to adsorbing molecules of hydrophobic pollutant compounds (PCBs, DDT and its metabolites) on their surface, in their degradation processes release substances (such as phthalates, bisphenol A, PBDEs, alkylphenols) that are found within them either by being components of the plastic itself or as additives added during processing.
Characterized by their very small size (< 5 mm), microplastics can be easily confused with plankton, and as a result, planktophagous animals such as mobula, basking shark, and Misticeti cetaceans are at high risk of ingesting such particles.

Collaborations

Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare (http://minambiente.it/)
Accademia dei Fisiocritici di Siena (http://www.accademiafisiocritici.it /index.php/it/) 

Dott. Luigi Alcaro, Dott. Marco Matiddi - ISPRA (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale) (Roma, Italia)
Dott. Simone Panigada, Dott.ssa Sabina Airoldi - Tethys Research Institute (Milano, Italia)
Dott.ssa Roberta Minutoli - Università degli Studi di Messina (Messina, Italia)
Prof. Pietro Lupetti - Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita, Università degli Studi di Siena (Siena, Italia)
Dott.ssa Simona Clò, Dott.ssa Eleonora de Sabata - MedSharks
Dott. Fabrizio Serena, Dott.ssa Cecilia Mancusi - ARPAT (Agenzia Regionale Protezione Ambientale della Toscana)
Prof.ssa Flegra Bentivegna, Dott. Andrea Travaglini - Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Napoli, Italia)
Dott. Andrea de Lucia, Dott. Andrea Camedda - CNR (Consiglio Nazionale Ricerca) (Oristano, Italia)
Jorge Urban - Università Autonoma di Baja California (La Paz, Messico)
Michael H. Depledge - European Centre for Environment and Human Health, Univesity of Exeter Medical School (Exeter, England)
Dott. Daniele Denurra- CRAMA, Centro Recupero Animali Marini Asinara, Isola dell’Asinara (Sardegna, Italia)
Dott. Chiara Caruso - Centro di Recupero tartarughe marine Talamone (Grosseto - Italia)

Projects
  • Progetto del Ministero dell’Ambiente dal titolo: “Il problema emergente delle microplastiche del Mar Mediterraneo: il potenziale impatto sulla balenottera comune. PNM-2011-0023684. Primi dati mondiali sugli effetti delle microplastiche nelle balenottere. (Responsabile scientifico Prof. M.C. Fossi). 2011 – 2013
Recent or highlight publications
  1. FOSSI M.C., PANTI C., GUERRANTI C., COPPOLA D., GIANNETTI M., MARSILI L., MINUTOLI R. (2012). Are baleen whales exposed to microplastics threat? A case study of the Mediterranean Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64 (2012): 2374-2379.
  2. CAMPANI T., BAINI M., GIANNETTI M., CANCELLI F., MANCUSI C., SERENA F., MARSILI L., CASINI S., FOSSI M.C. (2013). Presence of plastic debris il loggerhead turtle stranded along the Tuscany coasts of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals (Italy). Marine Pollution Bulletin, IN PRESS.
  3. FOSSI M.C., GUERRANTI C., COPPOLA D., BAINI M., GIANNETTI M., CAMPANI T., CLO’ S., DE SABATA E. (2012). Preliminary assessment of microplastics threat in Mediterranean basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus): implication for the MSFD. 16th EEA Scientific Conference Milano, November 22-25, 2012.
  4. FOSSI M.C., PANTI C., COPPOLA D., GIANNETTI M., MARSILI L., MINUTOLI R., GUERRANTI C. (2012). Are baleen whales exposed to microplastics threat? The case study of the Mediterranean Fin whale. 28th ESCPB Congress, Cellular and molecular mechanisms for physiological adaptation to multiple stress Bilbao (Spain), September 2-5, 2012.
  5. FOSSI M.C., GUERRANTI C., COPPOLA D., PANTI C., GIANNETTI M., MALTESE S., MARSILI L., MINUTOLI R. (2012). Preliminary results on the potential assumption of microplastics by Mediterranean Fin whale: the use of phthalates as a tracer. 6th SETAC World Congress, Securing a sustainable future: Integrating science, policy and people, Berlin (Germany), 20-24 May 2012.
  6. GIANNETTI M., BAINI M., CAMPANI T., ROMANO M., CASINI S., MARSILI L., FOSSI M.C. (2013). Ingestion of plastic material by loggerhead turtle  (Caretta caretta) and induction of porphyrins in excreta. Biology and ecotoxicology of large marine vertebrates: potential sentinels of Good Environmental Status of marine environment, implication on European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Second edition, Siena, Italy, 5-6 June 2013.
  7. DE LUCIA G.A., MATIDDI M., CAMEDDA A., COPPA S., CALIANI I., CAMPANI T., GIANNETTI M., COPPOLA D., MARSILI L., PANTI C., BAINI M., GUERRANTI C., FOSSI M.C., ALCARO L. (2013). Neustonic microplastic in the Sardinian coast (Central-Western Mediterranean Sea): amount, distribution and impact on zooplankton. Biology and ecotoxicology of large marine vertebrates: potential sentinels of Good Environmental Status of marine environment, implication on European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Second edition, Siena, Italy, 5-6 June 2013.
  8. FOSSI M.C., PANTI C., COPPOLA D., BAINI M., GIANNETTI M., GUERRANTI C., MARSILI L., CLO’ S., DE SABATA E. (2013). Large filter feeders marine organisms as indicators of microplastic in the pelagic environment: the case studies of the mediterranean fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) and basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). Biology and ecotoxicology of large marine vertebrates: potential sentinels of Good Environmental Status of marine environment, implication on European Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Second edition, Siena, Italy, 5-6 June 2013.
  9. FOSSI M.C., PANTI C., COPPOLA D., BAINI M., GIANNETTI M., MARSILI L., CALIANI I., MINUTOLI R., LAURIANO G., PANIGADA S., URBAN J., GUERRANTI C. (2013). Are fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) exposed to microplastics toxicological threat?. 27° ECS, Setubal Portugal, 8-10 April, 2013.

Cristina Panti 
Ilaria Caliani
Cristiana Guerranti
Matteo Giannetti 
Matteo Baini
Tommaso Campani
Daniele Coppola