Exploring the influence of sediment motion on microplastic deposition in streambeds

Eshel Peleg, Yoni Teitelbaum, Shai Arnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Microplastics (MP) of all sizes and densities have been found deposited in streambeds. Several delivery processes were proposed to explain these observations. However, none of the previous studies explored these processes systematically, especially in cases of streambeds made of fine sediments that are regularly in motion. In this study, we quantified the effect of streambed motion on the deposition and accumulation of MP in streambed sediments using particle tracking simulations in a numerical flow and transport model. The model was run for streamwater velocities of 0.1–0.5 m s−1 and median grain sizes of 0.15–0.6 mm. Streambed morphodynamics were estimated from these input parameters using empirical relationships. MP propensity to become trapped in porous media was simulated using a filtration coefficient. For each grain size and streamwater velocity, a wide variety of filtration coefficients was used in simulations in order to predict the fate of particles in the sediment. We found that exchange due to sediment turnover leads to burial and long-term deposition of MP that originally were not expected to enter the bed due to size exclusion. The results also show that in streambeds with fine sediments, localized deposits of MP are expected to occur as a horizontal layer below the moving fraction of the bed (upper layer). However, increasing celerity reduces the depth of MP deposition in the streambed. We conclude that models that do not include the effect of bed motion on MP deposition are likely miscalculating the deposition, retention, resuspensions and long-term accumulation of MP in streambed sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120952
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Bedforms
  • Filtration
  • Hyporheic exchange flux
  • Plastic
  • Ripples
  • Sediment movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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