The composition, size distribution, and abundance of floating plastic debris in surface waters of the Mediterranean Sea were analyzed in relation to distance to land. We combined data from previously published reports with an intensive sampling in inshore waters of the Northwestern Mediterranean. The highest plastic concentrations were found in regions distant from from land as well as in the first kilometer adjacent to the coastline. In this nearshore water strip, plastic concentrations were significantly correlated with the nearness to a coastal human population, with local areas close to large human settlements showing hundreds of thousands of plastic pieces per km2. The ratio of plastic to plankton abundance reached particularly high values for the coastal surface waters. Polyethylene, polypropylene and polyamides were the predominant plastic polymers at all distances from coast (86 to 97% of total items), although the diversity of polymers was higher in the 1-km coastal water strip due to a higher frequency of polystyrene or polyacrylic fibers. The plastic size distributions showed a gradual increase in abundance toward small sizes indicating an efficient removal of small plastics from the surface. Nevertheless, the relative abundance of small fragments (< 2 mm) was higher within the 1-km coastal water strip, suggesting a rapid fragmentation down along the shoreline, likely related with the washing ashore on the beaches. This study constitutes a first attempt to determine the impact of plastic debris in areas closest to Mediterranean coast. The presence of a high concentration of plastic including tiny plastic items could have significant environmental, health and economic impacts.
Maria Luiza Pedrotti , Stéphanie Petit, Amanda Elineau, Stéphane Bruzaud, Jean-Claude Crebassa, Bruno Dumontet, Elisa Martí, Gabriel Gorsky, Andrés Cózar, PLoS ONE 11(8): e0161581