Oral Presentation Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia 2021

Leave no trace? Microplastic pollution on recreational trails (#89)

Nicola A Forster 1 , Susan C Wilson 1 , Matthew K Tighe 1
  1. University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia

Microplastics are pervasive in the natural environment and detected even in remote areas. Outdoor recreation (eg. hiking, trail running) is increasingly popular in national parks, wilderness areas, and conservation reserves. Abrasion of outdoor clothing and footwear may be a leading source of microplastics in these areas, which have few direct sources of microplastic pollution other than foot traffic. This study aims to measure the amount and types of microplastics on a popular recreational trail around Dumaresq Dam and Duval Nature Reserve near Armidale, NSW. We will use a combined systematic-random sampling design to survey microplastics on asphalt, compacted soil, and rock surfaces on trail sections with varying amounts of foot traffic. Microplastics will be sampled using a custom designed and tested protocol, then visualised, counted, and measured using stereomicroscopy. Microplastics may have physical, biological, and chemical effects on the soil environment, impacting water flow, vegetation growth and biodiversity. It is critical to understand the contribution of hiking and trail running to microplastic pollution so that land managers can plan visitor numbers and trail routes and minimise impacts on ecologically significant areas.