FACTS is structured around 5 work packages, which are bound together by the joint sampling campaigns:

WP 1: Large scale transport – South to north

- To gain an understanding on the processes driving large scale horizontal transport of MP from northern Europe to the Arctic
- To describe high-resolution transport of surface MP
- To quantify sedimentation rates in the Skagerrak
- To evaluate the input of microplastics from the atmosphere
- To evaluate the role of the sea surface microlayer (SML) as MP transition zone
- To correlate physical MP trends in water and sediment with accumulation in predatory benthic fish

The Norwegian Coastal Current (NCC) is a potentially important transport-route of MP that links the population-dense areas of northern Europe to the Arctic Ocean. The NCC consists of multiple water sources notable by their access point én route towards the Arctic. The most important water masses constituting the NCC, the Atlantic water, German Bight water, Baltic water, and contributions along the Norwegian coast, will be sampled. This “ground-truthing” of background MP densities in the major contributors to northern European water masses will prove invaluable in the effort to initiate realistic modelling scenarios of large-scale transport. The Skagerrak as a major accumulation area is also investigated, where the waters from almost the entire northern European population merge, before transported north. Finally, we will evaluate the contribution of MP from the atmosphere including wet and dry precipitation, a hitherto under-sampled source of MP.

WP2: Intermediate scale transport and fate

- Understand the distribution, vertical movement and deposition of MP in an intermediate scale fjord with known MP sources

- Elucidate the relative importance of local input versus long-range transport.

- Models for MP behavior in the water column will be generated and evaluated by comparing modelled distribution and accumulation with results from quantitative analyses of MP in a range of environmental compartments relevant for MP deposition, such as sediment, the lower water column and biota (WP1).

The study area is Byfjorden, Norway, a semi-enclosed fjord where wastewater and stormwater from about 200,000 inhabitants is discharged. After decades of monitoring, a detailed knowledge about the circulation and deposition sites in the fjord system exists and it is hence an ideal system to investigate MP and NP distribution and fate. An open question for MP deposition is though how particles move vertically in the water column.
The aim is to test transport models for MP and MP up against measurements. Initial studies of MP in sediments have shown that MP deposits in the sediments at sites with weak currents, similar to organic from discharged untreated wastewater. Hence it is hypothesized that the ocean floor is a major sink for MP. The sites selected for further investigation will be based on previous investigations of MP distribution in the sediments, and a pilot modelling study using a 3D, 50 m resolution general circulation oceanographic model to predict likely deposition sites.

WP 3: Vertical transport in the water column

- To identify, characterize and quantify sinking microplastics in the ocean

- To evaluate the role of biogenic particles and exopolymeric substances in the aggregation and export of microplastics and nanoplastics
- To develop new methodologies for the determination of nano- and microplastics coagulation and sinking dynamics
- To identify sediments abundance in the geographical area compared to other published results to identify main sink areas
- To quantify MP sediment accumulation rates at vertical transport stations

WP 3 will investigate processes responsible for the loss of MP from the surface ocean. MP vertical distribution and estimate vertical flux rates at selected sites such as Gullmars Fjord, Byfjorden, and locations in the Arctic Ocean will be investigated along a South-North transect from the North to the Barents Sea. Laboratory experiments will be develop and new methodologies applied to improve the mechanistic understanding of NP and MP coagulation dynamics, with emphasis on
interactions with EPS, biogenic, and mineral particles, as well as the role of microbial biofilms in their agglutination and defragmentation of MP. Timeseries of sediment trap samples already available will be re-analysed to assess time variability of MP fluxes in the deep Arctic.

WP 4: New challenges

- Detect and characterise nanoplastics (<1 μm) and tire and road wear particles particles in various marine compartments of selected sites with complementary established and new techniques
- Explore limits for detection, chemical identification and quantification of nanoplastics depending on methods and matrices
- Investigate correlations between nanoplastics and microplastics occurrences and abundances
- Develop guidelines for future nanoplastics and tyre wear particle analyses

Despite increasingly accurate methods for MP detection, two particle classes highly relevant but currently largely unaccounted for in terms of MP fate, are nanoplastics (NP, < 1 μm) and tire and road wear particles particles (TRWP). While only NP requires adapted sampling and extraction methods, both present challenges in terms of analysis due to small size or association with other materials. WP4 will explore possibilities and limitations in the detection of nanoplastics and tyre wear components from different matrices and sites. With a broad analytical toolbox between the partners, we will explore lower size and realistic detection limits for nanoplastics and advance the identification and quantification of tyre wear particles. For nanoplastics, we will build on straightforward sampling and extraction/purification techniques and address the role of aggregation in sampling and recovery. For both types of particles we aim to develop guidelines for reliable future analyses.

WP5: Coordinated sampling, extraction, analysis


- Provide optimal data for risk assessment and modeling in terms of FACTS for microplastics, microfibers, tyre wear particles and nanoplastics by harmonized protocols.
- Provide and evaluate quality control measures and protocols
- Determine differences between the analytical tools by inter-calibration.

Harmonization and coordination of sampling, sample extraction and analyses is crucial for the project. Based on literature, experiences and available sampling tools, a harmonized sampling strategy is developed and provided together with quality control protocols. Sampling campaigns, including sample storage are coordinated. Samples are provided to partner labs for MP extraction. The partners are provided with a harmonized sample extraction and quality control protocol addressing the needs for the analytical tools. Extracted samples are handled so that particle count data (non destructive techniques) as well as mass related data (destructive techniques) are available for the respective samples. State of the art FTIR, Raman and py-GC/MS systems are used for analysis following clear quality control measures. Methodical and instrumental differences are addressed by inter-calibration studies to provide harmonized results for all WPs. Finally the synthesis of this processes is evaluated.

WP 6: Project coordination, integration, synthesis


- Monitor compliance by the Partners with their obligations
- Maintain and make available a current list of partners and relevant contact persons;
- Collect, review and submit information on the progress of the Project and reports and other deliverables (including financial statements and related certifications) to the funding agency
- Circulate documents and information connected with the Project to the Parties
- Administer the project finances and fulfill the financial reporting tasks

Internal administrative and financial management (including reporting and monitoring) will be coordinated by AAU, who also will act as the intermediary between the funding agency administration and the administration of each participating organization. AAU will also coordinate the: Scientific projectmanagement; Compilation of progress reports; Monitoring of progress; and external Progress reporting and evaluation. A critical synthesis of the outcome of the WPs dedicated to “Large scale transport - south to north” (WP1), “Intermediate scale transport and fate” (WP2), “Vertical transport in the water column” (WP3), “New challenges” (WP4) and “Coordination,
Integration and Synthesis” (WP5) will be pursued by specialized workshops that integrate workpackage participants with the rest of the consortium partners (workshops at start, mid-term and end).

Fluxes and Fate of Microplastics in Northern European Waters

- A project by JPI Oceans

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