University of Portsmouth scientists help map impact of plastic marine pollution

SCIENTISTS from the University of Portsmouth are working with colleagues in east Africa to map the impact of plastic pollution in the Western Indian Ocean.

Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:27 pm

Researchers from here and University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania will use specialist microscopes to analyse water samples taken off the coast of Lamu Archipelago in Kenya, to discover the quantity, size and type of microplastics that are floating in the sea.

Their findings will help scientists and the local community further understand the impact plastic litter has both on land and in the sea around these highly sensitive marine locations.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, deputy director of Revolution Plastics at the University of Portsmouth, travelled to Lamu while the data was being collected. She said: ‘Only by assessing the full extent of marine plastics on this delicate environment can we hope to support local communities to find solutions to manage this plastic waste.’

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The Flipflopi off the coast of Kenya

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The detailed analysis will take place between May and July, helping to support the much larger Flipflopi project – an East African movement with a mission to end single-use plastic and inspire a plastic-reuse revolution.

The organisation created the world’s first sailing dhow made entirely from discarded plastic, and named it Flipflopi.

Sailors on the Flipflopi collected the samples during a two-week expedition in February. Once analysed, the data will be used to map the extent of macroplastics, microplastics and microfibres in the ocean, as well as the beaches and mangrove forests that make up around 200 miles of the Kenyan coastline.

On board the Flipflopi off the coast of Kenya

Dr Fay Couceiro's University of Portsmouth’s Microplastics Research Group will be carrying out the analysis. Dr Couceiro said: ‘It's exciting to be starting the analysis of sea water that has come all the way from Lamu – right here in Portsmouth.

‘Microplastics are a growing problem all over the world and this analysis will help create a picture of what is happening in the water around Lamu – where we know there is a plastic pollution crisis on the land. These results will be combined with the land and sea macroplastic data helping us to establish flows of plastic from land into the sea, and then we can work together to find solutions.’