In the North Sea, the amount of litter present in the marine environment represents a severe environmental problem. In order to assess the magnitude of the problem and measure changes in abundance, the results of two beach litter monitoring programmes were compared and analysed for long-term trends applying multivariate techniques. Total beach litter pollution was persistently high. Spatial differences in litter abundance made it difficult to identify long-term trends: Partly more than 8000 litter items year−1 were recorded on a 100 m long survey site on the island of Scharhörn, while the survey site on the beach on the island of Amrum revealed abundances lower by two orders of magnitude. Beach litter was dominated by plastic with mean proportions of 52%–91% of total beach litter. Non-parametric time series analyses detected many significant trends, which, however, did not show any systematic spatial patterns. Cluster analyses partly led to groupings of beaches according to their expositions to sources of litter, wind and currents. Surveys in short intervals of one to two weeks were found to give higher annual sums of beach litter than the quarterly surveys of the OSPAR method. Surveys at regular intervals of four weeks to five months would make monitoring results more reliable.
Marcus Schulz, Thomas Clemens, Harald Förster and al., Marine Environmental Research, Volume 109, Pages 21–27, August 2015