EPHEMARE - Ecotoxicological Effects of Microplastics in Marine Ecosystems

Plastics are materials widely used in almost all objects of everyday life. They are not biodegradable but undergo weathering, resulting in the release of very small plastic particles called microplastics. The environmental impacts of these particles are still poorly understood and this project seeks to find out more about the harmful impacts in marine organisms.

Photo: Colourbox

About the project

In the frame of EPHEMARE, the effects of microplastics (MPs) and MP‐adsorbed pollutants will be investigated in various marine species. Microplastics of different size (from a few micrometers up to 500 micrometers) and chemical nature will be studied, such as LDPE (the most abundant MPs in marine environment), PET, PP and PVC. Since MPs have been demonstrated to act as vectors for other molecules, MPs will be spiked with persistent pollutants (e.g. PAHs, PFOS). Actual adsorption of pollutants will be monitored using high standard appropriate methods, with analytical checking provided by EU QA/QC certified laboratories. The effects of spiked vs non-spiked MPs will be compared to better understand the role of MPs are vectors of other toxic contaminants.


EPHEMARE objectives are to investigate the uptake, tissue distribution and fate of microplastics (MPs) in several organisms representative of marine pelagic and benthic ecosystems. EPHEMARE aims to investigate the toxic potential of MPs per se or as vectors of marine pollutants, and their trophic transfer along marine food webs. Parallel to toxicity assessment at molecular to individual organisation levels, exposure and effect biomarkers for MPs will be developped. At the end, EPHEMARE will provide stakeholders with knowledge‐based data to provide the scientific basis for MPs regulation and promote public awareness on the risks that MPs pose to marine ecosystems.


Beyond fundamental research, EPHEMARE outputs will produce methodological basis to transfer of knowledge in the frame of EU pre‐normative research. EPHEMARE will seek to involve relevant stakeholders to disseminate results to public authorities, in order to contribute to implementation of EU directives, in particular WFD and MSFD. Specific attention will be paid on communication toward general public in order to raise its awareness of risks for marine ecosystems posed by MPs.


EU JPI-Oceans and RCN (Research Council of Norway)



EPHEMARE consortium is constituted of highly experienced aquatic ecotoxicology laboratories equipped with all resources needed for the project, including singular marine facilities to perform experimental exposures and to manage field samples. The consortium includes 16 partners from 10 European countries including several of the most experienced European groups in MP research.

University of Vigo (Spain)

Spanish Institute of Oceanography (Spain)

University of Murcia (Spain)

University of Bordeaux (France)

University of Heidelberg (Germany)

University of Antwerp (Belgium)

Marche Polytechnic University (Italy)

National Research Council (Italy)

Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (Portugal)

University of Algarve (Portugal)

University of Örebro (Sweden)

University of Oslo (Norway)

University of Cork (Ireland)

Ifremer (France)

Plymouth University (United Kingdom)

University of Exeter (United Kingdom)



EPHEMARE approaches will be a combination of experimental exposures in controlled conditions and field studies in four geographical areas. Downstream sample analysis will include normalized assays along with exploratory approaches and advanced technologies (e.g. environmental scanning electron microscope (e‐SEM) which allows samples imaging in their wet state avoiding bias existing with classical EM). In all cases, an effort will be made on standardisation of biomarkers for MP exposure and effects in a pre‐normative perspective. In addition to the large set of species studied, EPHEMARE will definitely be a transdisciplinary project using molecular to individual assays in order to better identify physiological disruptions and underlying mechanisms, resulting from MPs exposure.


More about EPHEMARE:

To know more about the project you can visit the EPHEMARE webpage on JPI Oceans' website, and follow us on Facebook.   


Tags: Plastic pollution, Microplastic, Ecotoxicology, Mikroplast, Marine Pollution
Published Aug. 24, 2017 10:51 AM - Last modified Oct. 26, 2020 9:03 AM