Home » INTERNATIONAL MARINE LITTER DATABASE » Micro-plastic ingestion by waterbirds from contaminated wetlands in South Africa

Chevonne Reynolds, Peter G. Ryan,

Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 126, 2018, Pages 330-333, ISSN 0025-326X,


Despite a large literature on the impacts of micro-plastic pollution in marine ecosystems, very little research has focused on
these pollutants in freshwater ecosystems. Recently, however, a few studies have demonstrated that micro-plastic pollutants are ingested by
freshwater taxa, including birds. To explore this potential environmental threat in African freshwater systems we quantified
micro-plastic pollutants in the faeces and feather brushings of seven southern African duck species.

We analysed 283 faecal samples and 408 feather brushings, and found that 5% of faecal samples and 10% of feather samples contained micro-plastic fibres. The presence and abundance of micro-fibres differed between sampling sites, with significantly higher amounts recorded for the site that received effluent from a sewage treatment facility. Additionally, micro-fibrepresence differed across duck species, indicating that foraging behaviour affects plastic ingestion. Our study confirms that African freshwater ecosystems and the biodiversity they support are under threat from micro-plastic contamination.


Micro-plastic ingestion by waterbirds from contaminated wetlands in South Africa

3. September 2020