Plastic pollution has become a pervasive environmental problem on a global scale, from the ocean depths to the aquatic ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau. To date, data on plastic and microplastic occurrence in pristine ecosystems like high-mountain lakes are lacking. In this study, plastic (>5000 μm) and microplastic (10-5000 μm) levels were measured in snow at the end of the winter season (April 2020), and in water, sediment, and biological samples collected monthly (June-October 2019) during the ice-free season from the Dimon Lake, a high-mountain lake in the Carnic Alps, northeast Italy. Biological samples consisted of chironomids (Diptera, Chironomidae; n = 150) and stomach contents of Cottus gobio (n = 40). Analysis of the water, sediment, and biological samples revealed the absence of plastic and microplastics larger than 10 μm, whereas the snow samples contained microplastics of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) albeit at very low levels (0.11 ± 0.19 L-1). These results show that while the lake ecosystem could be considered unpolluted by microplastics, abundant snow precipitation in winter can trap microplastic particles that deposit on the ground. The very low levels of PET microparticles recorded in the snow samples suggest the need for further research to better understand the source of microplastic pollution in this environmental matrix.
Keywords: Chironomidae; Cottus gobio; Environmental monitoring; PET; Remote ecosystem.
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