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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Technical note 04 Jan 2019

Technical note | 04 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Technical note: On the importance of a three-dimensional approach for modelling the transport of neustic microplastics

Isabel Jalón-Rojas1, Xiao-Hua Wang1, and Erick Fredj2 Isabel Jalón-Rojas et al.
  • 1The Sino-Australian Research Centre for Coastal Management, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, UNSW Canberra, Canberra, 2610, Australia
  • 2Jerusalem College of Technology, Jerusalem, Israel

Abstract. Understanding and estimating the distribution and transport of microplastics in marine environments has been recognized as a major global research issue. Most of the existing research on transport modelling has focused on low-dense particles floating in surface waters, using a 2D Lagrangian approach and ignoring the vertical displacement of particles. In this work, we evaluate to what extent the vertical movement of particles within surface waters by mixing processes may affect the horizontal transport and fate of microplastics. The aim is to determinate whether a 2D approach is sufficient for the accurate modelling of neustic-microplastics transport or a 3D approach is necessary. For this purpose, we compare visually and statistically the microplastics transport patterns of three simulations in a coastal system: one using a 2D approach; and two using a 3D approach with weak and strong vertical turbulence, respectively. The 2D simulation roughly reproduced the transport and accumulation patterns, but accurate results required a 3D approach. This was particularly important for strong vertical turbulence and regions characterized by strong vertical current shear. Moreover, a 2D approach can lead to errors in the results even with negligible turbulence due to simplifications in the velocity field. A 3D modelling approach is therefore key to an accurate estimation and prediction of microplastics distribution in coastal systems, and consequently for planning mitigation and cleaning programs.

Isabel Jalón-Rojas et al.
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Status: open (extended)
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Isabel Jalón-Rojas et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Simplified 2DH numerical models are typically used for simulating the transport of floating microplastics. This paper demonstrates the impact of vertical mixing on the horizontal transport and fate of microplastics in a bay, and therefore the importance of a 3D approach for an accurate modelling of microplastics transport. These results have important implications for the assessment and prediction of pollution hot spots in coastal systems, as well as for planning effective clean-up programs.
Simplified 2DH numerical models are typically used for simulating the transport of floating...