The aim of this study is to develop standard statistical methods and software for the analysis of beach litter data. The optimal ensemble of statistical methods comprises the Mann-Kendall trend test, the Theil-Sen slope estimation, the Wilcoxon step trend test and basic descriptive statistics. The application of Litter Analyst, a tailor-made software for analysing the results of beach litter surveys, to OSPAR beach litter data from seven beaches bordering on the south-eastern North Sea, revealed 23 significant trends in the abundances of beach litter types for the period 2009–2014. Litter Analyst revealed a large variation in the abundance of litter types between beaches. To reduce the effects of spatial variation, trend analysis of beach litter data can most effectively be performed at the beach or national level. Spatial aggregation of beach litter data within a region is possible, but resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of significant trends.
Marcus Schulz, Willem van Loon, David M. Fleet, Paul Baggelaar, Eit van der Meulen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 21 June 2017, In Press