First evidence of microplastics in Antarctic snow

Alex R. Aves, Laura E. Revell, Sally Gaw, Helena Ruffell, Alex Schuddeboom, Ngaire E. Wotherspoon, Michelle Larue, Adrian J. Mcdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In recent years, airborne microplastics have been identified in a range of remote environments. However, data throughout the Southern Hemisphere, in particular Antarctica, are largely absent to date. We collected snow samples from 19 sites across the Ross Island region of Antarctica. Suspected microplastic particles were isolated and their composition confirmed using micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (μFTIR). We identified microplastics in all Antarctic snow samples at an average concentration of 29 particles L-1, with fibres the most common morphotype and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) the most common polymer. To investigate sources, backward air mass trajectories were run from the time of sampling. These indicate potential long-range transportation of up to 6000 km, assuming a residence time of 6.5 d. Local sources were also identified as potential inputs into the environment as the polymers identified were consistent with those used in clothing and equipment from nearby research stations. This study adds to the growing body of literature regarding microplastics as a ubiquitous airborne pollutant and establishes their presence in Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2127-2145
Number of pages19
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 7 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support. This research has been supported by the Mars-

Funding Information:
This research has been supported by the Marsden Fund (grant no. MFP-UOC1903).

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. The authors thank Nicole Lauren-Manuera, Alex Nicholls, Paula Brooksby, Justin Harrison, Antarctica New Zealand, staff and students from Gateway Antarctica, and the Post-graduate Certificate of Antarctic Studies 2019 group. Alex R. Aves was supported by Gateway Antarctica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Scholarship in Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies. We acknowledge mana whenua, Nga¯i Tu¯a¯huriri, on whose lands our analysis and writing took place.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Alex R. Aves et al.


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