Each year, scientists estimate up to 4 million tons of plastic debris are transported from rivers to oceans all across the globe.
It was long thought that most microplastics found in river systems would eventually make their way into the oceans.
However, new research by UM scientists has determined that more microplastics are retained in river systems than previously thought.
They focused on the occurrence and fate of the debris in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in China.
The results, which run counter to current estimates regarding river export of microplastics, are significant.
They indicate that river systems are at great risk for microplastic pollution.
Currently, a similar research project will assess microplastic concentrations in the Flathead Lake watershed.
For more information about microplastics research, visit the Flathead Lake Biological Station website at https://flbs.umt.edu.