Longitudinal Patterns of Microplastic Abundance and Potential for Food Web Uptake in the Yakima River


Janell Shah

Faculty Mentor(s)

Clay Arango (Biological Sciences)


Microplastic (MP) pollution is ubiquitous worldwide with plastics found even in pristine terrestrial, marine, and freshwater environments, but the ecological consequences of widespread MP remain unknown concern is growing because. A growing number of MP studies in marine environments reveal XX and YY, however the impacts of plastic pollution on freshwater ecosystems have received less research attention. While many studies have investigated species-specific ingestion of MPs, very few have investigated the pathways of MPs into a local food web. Therefore, I will examine aquatic insects as a potential food web uptake mechanism and how microplastics are distributed in the insect community of the Yakima River. Because wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are a known source of MP to freshwaters through laundering synthetic fabrics, I will focus my investigation upstream and downstream of the City of Yakima Wastewater Treatment Plant. I will sample stream water, biofilm (the algal and microbial layer that naturally grows on rocks in rivers), and aquatic insects at each site. All samples will be processed in the lab to isolate and enumerate MPs. It is anticipated that samples taken downstream of the WWTP will contain more MPs than samples taken upstream, due to WWTPs being known as point source inputs of microplastics. This analysis will reveal where and at what concentration MPs are accumulating in the base of the riverine food web in the Yakima River and whether insects, which are a common food source for higher order consumers such as fish, accumulate MPs.

Keywords: Microplastics, Ecology, Pollution



3 thoughts on “Longitudinal Patterns of Microplastic Abundance and Potential for Food Web Uptake in the Yakima River”

  1. I was intrigued by your selection of the Yakima River. While I love that you focused on waterways close to CWU, how do you think the Yakima River would compare to rivers in other parts of the state?

  2. Nice overview of plastics problem in the environment and Interesting project. Seems like the environmental contamination during field sampling or laboratory analysis indicates just how pervasive and problematic microplastics are. I wonder what your thoughts are for refining the techniques to avoid or minimize the contamination problem.

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