A monitoring and data analysis method for microplastics in marine sediments

Patrick S. Bäuerlein*, M.W. Erich, W. van Loon, S.M. Mintenig, A.A. Koelmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In Europe, policy frameworks demand the monitoring of microplastics in marine sediments. Here we provide a monitoring and data analysis method for microplastic particles designed to be used in the context of Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and OSPAR policy frameworks. Microplastics were analysed in marine sediments at four different locations in Dutch coastal and transitional waters using replicate sampling to investigate micro-spatial variation. Particle size distribution followed a power law with slope 3.76. Thirteen polymers were identified, with their composition varying between sediments near densely populated West coast areas versus the more rural Wadden Sea area. We quantify differences in the micro-spatial variation of microplastic concentrations between locations using the relative standard error of the mean (RSEM). This metric provides an opportunity to optimize the sensitivity of trend detection in microplastic monitoring networks by selecting locations with relatively low micro-spatial variation. We provide a method to optimize the number of replicate samples for a given location using its relationship with the RSEM. Two replicate samples appear to be cost-effective for relatively homogenous locations, whereas more heterogenous locations require four replicates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105804
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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