Distribution and potential sources of microplastics in sediments in remote lakes of Tibet, China

Ting Liang, Zhiyuan Lei, Md Tariful Islam Fuad, Qi Wang, Shichun Sun, James Kar Hei Fang, Xiaoshou Liu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of microplastics in water bodies such as oceans and rivers has received considerable attention in recent years. The present study contributes to this research effort by assessing microplastics in 12 remote lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, China. Despite the limited extent of human activities, at least 17 items and up to 2644 items of microplastics were found per kg of dried sediments collected from the lakes in Tibet. These values were considered high compared to the levels of microplastics reported in other lake areas worldwide. Our results showed that the most prevailing types of microplastics in the sediments were black or transparent fibers in the size range of 0.05–0.5 mm, which were mainly identified to be polyamide and polyethylene terephthalate using Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy. The number of microplastics found appeared to be higher in sediments with a higher silt and clay content. Atmospheric long-range transport, glacial meltwater and surface runoff represent potential pathways to carry microplastics from elsewhere to the remote lakes in Tibet. This study shall be of great significance in understanding the transport and distribution of microplastics in the environment at regional or global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number150526
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • FTIR
  • Long-range transport
  • Microplastics
  • Tibetan Plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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