Characterizing export of land-based microplastics to the estuary - Part II: Sensitivity analysis of an integrated geospatial microplastic transport modeling assessment of tire and road wear particles

Sci Total Environ. 2019 Jan 1;646:1650-1659. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.301. Epub 2018 Aug 24.


Integrated models addressing microplastic (MP) generation, terrestrial distribution, and freshwater transport are useful tools characterizing the export of MP to marine waters. In Part I of this study, a baseline watershed-scale MP mass balance model was developed for tire and road wear particles (TRWP) in the Seine watershed. In Part II, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis (SA) methods were used to identify the parameters that determine the transport of these particles to the estuary. Local differential, local range and global first-order variance-based SA identified similar key parameters. The global SA (1000 Monte Carlo simulations) indicated that most of the variance in TRWP exported to the estuary can be apportioned to TRWP diameter (76%), TRWP density (5.6%), the fraction of TRWP directed to combined sewers with treatment (3.9%), and the fraction of TRWP distributed to runoff (versus roadside soil; 2.2%). The export fraction was relatively insensitive to heteroaggregation processes and the rainfall intensity threshold for road surface washoff. The fraction of TRWP exported to estuary in the probabilistic assessment was centered on the baseline estimate of 2%. This fraction ranged from 1.4 to 4.9% (central tendency defined as 25th to 75th percentile) and 0.97% to 13% (plausible upper bound defined as 10th to 90th percentiles). This study emphasizes the importance of in situ characterization of TRWP diameter and density, and confirms the baseline mass balance presented in Part I, which indicated an appreciable potential for capture of TRWP in freshwater sediment.

Keywords: Freshwater; Integrated model; Microplastic; Sensitivity analysis; Tire and road wear particles; Uncertainty analysis.