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Abundance of non-conservative microplastics in the upper ocean from 1957 to 2066
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Laboratory-based studies have suggested that marine organisms can be harmed by ingesting microplastics. However, unless the current and future microplastic abundance in the ocean environment is quantified, these experimental studies could be criticized for using an unrealistic density or sparsity of microplastics. Here we show the secular variations of pelagic microplastic abundance in the Pacific Ocean from 1957 to 2066, based on a combination of numerical modeling and transoceanic surveys conducted meridionally from Antarctica to Japan. Marine plastic pollution is an ongoing concern especially in the North Pacific, and pelagic microplastics are regarded as non-conservative matter due to the removal processes that operate in the upper ocean. The results of our numerical model incorporating removal processes on a 3-year timescale suggested that the weight concentrations of pelagic microplastics around the subtropical convergence zone would increase approximately twofold (fourfold) by 2030 (2060) from the present condition.

 

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