Microplastics found under microscope analysis in the facilities of Archipelago Institute.

Microplastics are anthropogenic pollutants that enter the water column in two different ways: either as primary sources, known as nurdles or pellets, or as secondary sources from larger plastics fragmented by sun, wind and water forces.

These particles measure up to 5mm and are considered as one of the biggest environmental problems nowadays due to their ability to enter the food chain and bioaccumulate, affecting all species, including humans. Once inside the organism, microplastics can cause internal abrasions and obstructions, besides a great number of physiological and toxicological issues at every level (hormonal, neurological, reproductive…).

Microplastic analysis at Archipelagos is a broad project involving monitoring microplastic contamination in the water column, sand, soil, salt, invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Recently we have been focusing on the digestive systems of marine mammals like dolphins and monk seals, as well as turtles (Fig. 1). Samples are collected from the oesophagus, stomach and small and large intestines. We have recorded microplastics in all the analysed samples.

Fig.1 – Chelonia mydas necropsy.

In November 2018, five stranded turtles (Fig. 2) were found, of both species Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas, Loggerhead and Green Turtle respectively.

Fig. 2 – Stranding of Chelonia mydas in Potokaki Beach, Samos.

The results collected during a year of research were recently presented at two different conferences: 6th Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles 2018 in Poreč, Croatia and MICRO2018 “Fate and impacts of microplastics: knowledge, actions and solutions” International Conference in Lanzarote, Spain (Fig. 3, Fig. 4).

In the coming months, the Archipelagos Microplastics Team will focus on analysing the digestive systems of the recently found turtles. Saltmarsh soil analyses will also be conducted to assess if microplastics are present and how their possible presence might affect the lovely and recently returned flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus).


Irene Moro Martínez- University of Salamanca, Spain

Tabea Lamprecht – Rheinisch-Westfählische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany

Nuria Garridos, Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir,Spain

Ana Calbet,Universidad Politecnica,Spain