The effect of fine-scale sampling frequency on estimates of beach litter accumulation

The effect of sampling frequency on estimates of the rate of litter accumulation was determined for two South African sandy beaches. After initial cleaning, all manufactured items >10 mm diameter were collected in alternating bouts of daily or weekly cleanups. Daily sampling collected 2.5 (range 2.1–3.4) times more litter items than weekly samples and 1.7 (1.3–2.3) times more litter by mass. Low density items such as foamed polystyrene showed a greater differential (4–5 times more items from daily sampling), presumably due to faster turnover of lightweight litter items. Variation in weekly samples was not consistently less than daily estimates, suggesting that less frequent samples only partly integrate short-term fluctuations in litter dynamics. Researchers using beach accumulation data to infer trends in nearshore marine litter, or to assess the efficacy of litter mitigation measures, need to ensure consistency in sampling frequency.


Peter G. Ryan, Annerie Lamprecht, Debbie Swanepoel, Coleen L. Moloney, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 88, Issues 1–2, Pages 249–254, 15 November 2014

The article



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