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Journal Articles Science Year : 2021

The missing ocean plastic sink: Gone with the rivers


Plastic floating at the ocean surface, estimated at tens to hundreds of thousands of metric tons, represents only a small fraction of the estimated several million metric tons annually discharged by rivers. Such an imbalance promoted the search for a missing plastic sink that could explain the rapid removal of river-sourced plastics from the ocean surface. On the basis of an in-depth statistical reanalysis of updated data on microplastics—a size fraction for which both ocean and river sampling rely on equal techniques—we demonstrate that current river flux assessments are overestimated by two to three orders of magnitude. Accordingly, the average residence time of microplastics at the ocean surface rises from a few days to several years, strongly reducing the theoretical need for a missing sink.


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Dates and versions

insu-03671329 , version 1 (18-05-2022)



Lisa Weiss, Wolfgang Ludwig, Serge Heussner, Miquel Canals, Jean-François Ghiglione, et al.. The missing ocean plastic sink: Gone with the rivers. Science, 2021, 373, pp.107-111. ⟨10.1126/science.abe0290⟩. ⟨insu-03671329⟩
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