An across-ecosystem approach:

For the first time worldwide, in the joint project PLAWES the pollution with microplastics of a large European river basin will be investigated on the example of the model system Weser-National Park Wadden Sea.

PLAWES, as a pioneer study, is going to conduct an interdisciplinary and across-ecosystem analysis concerning the contamination with microplastics from the headstreams to the North Sea, thereby considering exemplarily major point (e.g. wastewater treatment plants, combined sewer systems) and diffuse (drainage, atmosphere) sources and entry routes. The new insights are going to be included in a new modeling concept for the identification of primary transport mechanisms and accumulation zones of microplastics.

The effects of microplastics on the ecosystems of the Weser-Wadden Sea system will be investigated on both, aquatic invertebrates and the interaction of pathogens with microplastics in biofilms. The insights on ecologically relevant aspects are going to be used to assess the environmental effects of microplastics on the model system Weser-National Park Wadden Sea and to transfer these to other systems.

Furthermore, the results will be used to develop novel teaching materials to provide an education platform for teachers, pupils and parents across Europe.

Hence, PLAWES will generate unique data on the impacts of microplastics on a large European river basin and on environmental health. This will not only be instrumental for decision makers and stakeholders but also serve as focal point to develop science-based solutions.


The project is divided into six work packages (WP) which deal with following topics:

  • WP0: Management, communication, dissemination
  • WP1: Microplastic in the model system Weser-Wadden Sea
  • WP2: Entry routes of microplastics – major point and diffuse sources
  • WP3: Model-assisted accounting of diffuse and point entries of microplastics
  • WP4: Interaction of microplastic with pathogenes and biota
  • WP5: Educational measures to raise awareness in terms of plastic waste





The project PLAWES is part of the research focus “Plastic in the Environment” which is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The research focus “Plastic in the Environment – sources, sinks and solutions” is part of the Green Economy initiative of the BMBF program "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA3). 

Duration: 01.09.2017 - 31.08.2020

Project funding reference number: 03F0789A

 BMBF      Plastik in der Umwelt       FONA  


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