Citizen science datasets reveal drivers of spatial and temporal variation for anthropogenic litter on Great Lakes beaches

Accumulation of anthropogenic litter (AL) on marine beaches and its ecological effects have been a major focus of research. Recent studies suggest AL is also abundant in freshwater environments, but much less research has been conducted in freshwaters relative to oceans. The Adopt-a-BeachTM (AAB) program, administered by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, organizes volunteers to act as citizen scientists by collecting and maintaining data on AL abundance on Great Lakes beaches. Initial assessments of the AAB records quantified sources and abundance of AL on Lake Michigan beaches, and showed that plastic AL was > 75% of AL on beaches across all five Great Lakes. However, AAB records have not yet been used to examine patterns of AL density and composition among beaches of all different substrate types (e.g., parks, rocky, sandy), across land-use categories (e.g., rural, suburban, urban), or among seasons (i.e., spring, summer, and fall). We found that most AL on beaches are consumer goods that most likely originate from beach visitors and nearby urban environments, rather than activities such as shipping, fishing, or illegal dumping. We also demonstrated that urban beaches and those with sand rather than rocks had higher AL density relative to other sites. Finally, we found that AL abundance is lowest during the summer, between the US holidays of Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in September) at the urban beaches, while other beaches showed no seasonality. This research is a model for utilizing datasets collected by volunteers involved in citizen science programs, and will contribute to AL management by offering priorities for AL types and locations to maximize AL reduction.

Anna Vincent, Nate Drag, Olga Lyandres, Sarah Neville, Timothy Hoellein, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 577, 15 January 2017, Pages 105–112

The article

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s