We find marine plastic litter everywhere we look, but still huge knowledge gaps exist about the geographic distribution and sources as well as effects on the ecosystem and which methods work best to identify and measure plastic pollution.
The Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas are well connected with the Fram Strait and the Bering Strait, extending the problem of marine plastic pollution into the Arctic Ocean, which still remains largely understudied. To understand the distribution and find solutions to reduce plastic litter in the Arctic, knowledge of local sources within the Arctic is as important as an understanding of the transport pathways from more densely populated areas further south. With collaborating with Chinese and American research groups, we will be able to also better understand global plastic emissions as well as share state-of-the art methodology between our countries. The development of master courses, field trips and seminars in all involved countries will assist in a harmonized knowledge transfer and form strong bonds between research groups.
With still lacking data on sources, size of emissions and exposures throughout the Arctic marine ecosystem, there are still many unanswered questions. However, some crucial groundwork has been done in JPI Ocean projects aligned with PlastPoll2021, ANDROMEDA and FACTS. FACTS aims to understand the South-North gradient of marine and atmospheric microplastic distribution, from the German coast along the Norwegian coast to the Arctic. The ANDROMEDA project investigates the occurrence and compares available modern methodologies in key European marine species and ecosystems.
Being a fast developing field of research of increasing complexity, education and training on the impact and fate of MP pollution is lacking behind both in teaching state-of-the art research as well as methodology. After 2 years of the first phase project PlastPoll, this objective has become even more crucial, acting on the increase of available methodology and understanding of the impacts of nano- and microplastic pollution, as a global challenge impacting even remote and fragile regions as the Arctic. An overall goal is to train students in combining theoretical, experimental and field approaches for an excellent and sound scientific understanding of relevant processes and observations while at the same time contributing to the understanding of the fate and impact of MPs in the environment by developing this still young field of research on a global scale together. An invaluable added value to the underlying JPI projects ANDROMEDA and FACTS will result in the evolution of the scope from temperate regions to arctic and high arctic regions. The continuation the successfully established collaboration between Norway, China and USA will support the strong interaction between not only the supervisors, but also the students themselves will be both encouraged and facilitated by exchange visits, webinars and winter-/ summer schools including from the ANDROMEDA and FACTS consortia. We will additionally offer master student projects in all three locations, which will create additional opportunities for students to participate in specific parts of this project. At the same time, the exchange of experts will ensure the direct transfer of recent knowledge, leading on arctic research of MP in the environment. The unique combination of participating research institutions (NILU, NPI) and universities (UiT, UCSF, TU) is complementary in scientific quality, academic programs, experience and qualification.