Modeling impacts of river hydrodynamics on fate and transport of microplastics in riverine environments

Xiaolong Geng, Michel C. Boufadel, Edward P. Lopez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Microplastics pose a significant and growing threat to marine ecosystems and human health. Rivers serve as critical pathways for the entry of inland-produced microplastics into marine environments. In this paper, we developed a numerical modeling scheme using OpenFOAM to investigate the fate and transport of microplastics in a river system. Our simulation results show that microplastics undergo significant aggregation and breakage as they are transported downstream by river flows. This significantly alters the particle size distribution of microplastics. The aggregation-breakage process is mainly controlled by river hydrodynamics and pollution scale. Our findings suggest that a significant extent of particle aggregation occurs at an early stage of the release of microplastics in the river, while the aggregation-breakage process becomes limited as the microplastic plume is gradually dispersed and diluted downstream. Eddy diffusivity drives the dispersion of the microplastic plume in the river, and its spatial patterns affect the aggregation-breakage process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115602
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


  • Aggregation and breakage
  • Microplastics
  • Numerical modeling
  • OpenFOAM
  • River hydrodynamics


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