Plastic is one of the most demanded materials in the modern world as it is durable and long lasting. However, that which makes it so commercially appealing also makes it environmentally degrading. Anthropogenic waste and specifically microplastics have been identified in natural habitats globally, with particular interest placed on marine ecosystems. This research aims to add to this pool by comparing microplastic concentrations in beach, mangrove, and shallow ocean sediment in Bahía Almirante, Bocas del Toro, Panama. Sediment samples were collected from each habitat type, processed, and then analyzed to obtain the number of microplastic particles per gram of dry weight. Ocean sediments were found to have significantly higher concentrations of microplastics than beach and mangrove sediments, however beach and mangrove sediments were not statistically different from each other. This implies that microplastics are more likely to be found in ocean sediment then in beach sediment, and that mangroves are not likely to act as filters for microplastics in coastal zones. Secondary microplastics and microfibers were the most prevalent type of microplastic found, which is consistent with previous research. It also points to plastic degradation rather than direct inputs as main sources of contamination. This study confirms the presence of microplastics in coastal zones in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, concentrations of which will only stop increasing if plastic use and consumption are reduced.
Environmental Health | Latin American Studies | Other Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health | Pharmacology, Toxicology and Environmental Health
Feldberg, Bonnie, "Macro implications of microplastics: a comparative study of microplastic distribution in Bahía Almirante, Bocas del Toro, Panama" (2018). Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. 2943.