Plastic debris in lakes and reservoirs uri icon


  • Plastic debris is thought to be widespread in freshwater ecosystems globally(1). However, a lack of comprehensive and comparable data makes rigorous assessment of its distribution challenging(2,3). Here we present a standardized cross-national survey that assesses the abundance and type of plastic debris (>250 mu m) in freshwater ecosystems. We sample surface waters of 38 lakes and reservoirs, distributed across gradients of geographical position and limnological attributes, with the aim to identify factors associated with an increased observation of plastics. We find plastic debris in all studied lakes and reservoirs, suggesting that these ecosystems play a key role in the plastic-pollution cycle. Our results indicate that two types of lakes are particularly vulnerable to plastic contamination: lakes and reservoirs in densely populated and urbanized areas and large lakes and reservoirs with elevated deposition areas, long water-retention times and high levels of anthropogenic influence. Plastic concentrations vary widely among lakes; in the most polluted, concentrations reach or even exceed those reported in the subtropical oceanic gyres, marine areas collecting large amounts of debris(4). Our findings highlight the importance of including lakes and reservoirs when addressing plastic pollution, in the context of pollution management and for the continued provision of lake ecosystem services.


publication date

  • July 2023

published in