Plastic pollution in islands of the Atlantic Ocean

Marine plastic pollution is present in all oceans, including remote oceanic islands. Despite the increasing number of articles on plastic pollution in the last years, there is still a lack of studies in islands, that are biodiversity hotspots when compared to the surrounding ocean, and even other recognized highly biodiverse marine environments. Articles published in the peer reviewed literature (N = 20) were analysed according to the presence of macro (>5 mm) and microplastics (<5 mm) on beaches and the marine habitats immediately adjacent to 31 islands of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The first articles date from the 1980s, but most were published in the 2000s. Articles on macroplastics were predominant in this review (N = 12). Beaches were the most studied environment, possibly due to easy access. The main focus of most articles was the spatial distribution of plastics associated with variables such as position of the beach in relation to wind and currents. Very few studies have analysed plastics colonization by organisms or the identification of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Islands of the North/South Atlantic and Caribbean Sea were influenced by different sources of macroplastics, being marine-based sources (i.e., fishing activities) predominant in the Atlantic Ocean basin. On the other hand, in the Caribbean Sea, land-based sources were more common.

Raqueline C. P. Monteiro, Juliana A. Ivar do Sul, Monica F. Costa, Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 103–110

The article


Characterization of microplastic litter from oceans by an innovative approach based on hyperspectral imaging

An innovative approach, based on HyperSpectral Imaging (HSI), was developed in order to set up an efficient method to analyze marine microplastic litter. HSI was applied to samples collected by surface-trawling plankton nets from several parts of the world (i.e. Arctic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic and North Pacific). Reliable information on abundance, size, shape and polymer type for the whole ensemble of plastic particles in each sample was retrieved from single hyperspectral images. The simultaneous characterization of the polymeric composition of the plastic debris represents an important analytical advantage considering that this information, and even the validation of the plastic nature of the small debris, is a common flaw in the analysis of marine microplastic pollution. HSI was revealed as a rapid, non-invasive, non-destructive and reliable technology for the characterization of the microplastic waste, opening a promising way for improving the plastic pollution monitoring.

Silvia Serranti, Roberta Palmieri, Giuseppe Bonifazi, Andrés Cózar, Waste Management, Available online 5 March 2018, In Press

The article

Marine litter in an EBSA (Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area) of the central Mediterranean Sea: Abundance, composition, impact on benthic species and basis for monitoring entanglement

Marine litter is commonly observed everywhere in the ocean. In this study, we analyzed 17 km of video footage, collected by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) at depths ranging between 20 and 220 m, during 19 transects performed on the rocky banks of the Straits of Sicily. Recently, the Contracting Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognized this site as an Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area (EBSA). The research aim was to quantify the abundance of marine litter and its impact on benthic fauna. Litter density ranged from 0 items/100 m2 to 14.02 items/100 m2 with a mean (±standard error) of 2.13 (±0.84) items/100 m2. The observed average density was higher (5.2 items/100 m2) at depths >100 m than at shallower depths (<100 m, 0.71 items/100 m2). Lost or abandoned fishing lines contributed to 98.07% of the overall litter density, then representing the dominant source of marine debris. Litter interactions with fauna were frequently observed, with 30% of litter causing “entanglement/coverage” and 15% causing damage to sessile fauna. A total of 16 species showed interaction (entanglement/coverage or damage) with litter items and 12 of these are species of conservation concern according to international directives and agreements (CITES, Berne Convention, Habitat Directive, SPA/BD Protocol, IUCN Red List); we also observed 7 priority habitats of the SPA/BD Protocol. This research will support the implementation of monitoring “Harm” as recommended by the UN Environment/MAP Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The institution of a SPAMI in the investigated area could represent a good management action for the protection of this hotspot of biodiversity and to achieve a Good Environmental Status (GES) for the marine environment by 2020, under the MSFD.

Pierpaolo Consoli, Franco Andaloro, Chiara Altobelli and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 405–415

The article

Sorption behaviors of phenanthrene on the microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, southeastern China

Recently, with the accumulation of evidence that microplastic can be ingested by a variety of marine organisms, microplastic sorption behaviors towards organic contaminants (OCs) have become the subject of more studies due to the concerns about the contaminant vector effect. In this study, the priority microplastics identified in a mariculture farm in Xiangshan Bay, China, including polyethylene (PE) and nylon fibers (i.e., derived from new fishing ropes and nets), were examined for their sorption behaviors. The results indicate that both plastic fibers show linear isotherms towards phenanthrene, a common target hydrophobic organic contaminant (HOC), revealing the characteristics of a partitioning mechanism. The sorption capacity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude higher (evaluated by Freundlich parameter log KF) than that of nylon fiber, suggesting the importance of plastic surface functional groups (i.e., with or without hydrophilic groups). By comparing carbon normalized log KF with literature data, the organic affinity of PE fiber was found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than that of vectors, such as carbonaceous geosorbents (CG), but was 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than that of marine sediments. Small size and rough surface tended to enhance the sorption of plastic fibers of phenanthrene. In addition, phenol (log KOW: 1.46), a low-hydrophobicity compound, showed approximately 3 orders of magnitude lower sorption amounts onto both fibers compared to phenanthrene (log KOW: 4.46), indicating the selectivity of hydrophobicity. The results of this study demonstrate that the high abundance of plastic fibers distributed in mariculture farms could lead to a higher contaminant transfer effect than marine sediments, and their effects on cultured seafood (e.g., crab and fish) need further investigation.

Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626
Zheng Wang, Minglong Chen, Liwen Zhang and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 628–629, 1 July 2018, Pages 1617–1626

Below the surface: Twenty-five years of seafloor litter monitoring in coastal seas of North West Europe (1992–2017)

Marine litter presents a global problem, with increasing quantities documented in recent decades. The distribution and abundance of marine litter on the seafloor off the United Kingdom’s (UK) coasts were quantified during 39 independent scientific surveys conducted between 1992 and 2017. Widespread distribution of litter items, especially plastics, were found on the seabed of the North Sea, English Channel, Celtic Sea and Irish Sea. High variation in abundance of litter items, ranging from 0 to 1835 pieces km−2 of seafloor, was observed. Plastic tems such as bags, bottles and fishing related debris were commonly observed across all areas. Over the entire 25-year period (1992–2017), 63% of the 2461 trawls contained at least one plastic litter item. There was no significant temporal trend in the percentage of trawls containing any or total plastic litter items across the long-term datasets. Statistically significant trends, however, were observed in specific plastic litter categories only. These trends were all positive except for a negative trend in plastic bags in the Greater North Sea – suggesting that behavioural and legislative changes could reduce the problem of marine litter within decades.

T. Maes, J. Barry, H.A. Leslie and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 630, 15 July 2018, Pages 790–798

The article

Consistent patterns of debris on South African beaches indicate that industrial pellets and other mesoplastic items mostly derive from local sources

Identifying the sources of small plastic fragments is challenging because the original source item seldom can be identified. South Africa provides a useful model system to understand the factors influencing the distribution of beach litter because it has an open coastline with four equally-spaced urban-industrial centres distant from other major source areas. We sampled mesodebris (∼2–25 mm) at 82 South African beaches in 1994, 2005 and 2015. Plastic items comprised 99% by number and 95% by mass of litter items. Industrial pellets were the most abundant plastic items, but fragments of rigid plastic items comprised most of the mass of debris. Strong correlations between industrial pellets and other plastic items indicate that common factors influence the distribution of both pellets and secondary mesoplastics. The abundance of mesodebris at beaches also was correlated in successive surveys, suggesting that beach-specific factors (e.g. aspect, slope, local currents, etc.) influence the amounts of debris on each beach. Sample year had no effect on mesodebris abundance, indicating that there has been little change in the amounts of mesodebris over the last two decades. There were consistently higher densities of both industrial pellets and other plastic items at beaches close to urban-industrial centres; there were only weak correlations with human population density and no correlation with local runoff. The size of industrial pellets decreased away from local urban centres, further supporting the conclusion that, like macroplastic litter, most mesoplastic pollution on continental beaches derives from local, land-based sources. This finding means that local actions to reduce plastics entering the sea will have local benefits, and that it may be possible to assess the efficacy of mitigation measures to reduce marine inputs of mesoplastic items.

Peter G. Ryan, Vonica Perold, Alexis Osborne, Coleen L. Moloney, Environmental Pollution, Available online 16 February 2018, In Press

The article

Amount and distribution of benthic marine litter along Sardinian fishing grounds (CW Mediterranean Sea)

Reports of marine litter pollution first appeared in scientific literature of the early 1970s; yet, more than 40 years later, no rigorous estimates exist of the amount of litter existing in the marine environment. To cope with this global urgency, this study reports the status of marine litter abundance along fishing grounds surrounding the island of Sardinia (CW Mediterranean Sea; FAO Geographical Sub-Area 11) through three years of trawl surveys. A total of 302 hauls, covering a total of 18.4 km2 of trawled surface were carried out in the framework of the MEDITS campaign, at depths comprised between 0 and 800 m. A total of 918 items were collected and sorted, with the highest concentration observed above 200 m depth. Overall, plastic was the dominant component of litter, followed by glass and metal. Comparing our results with other areas from the Mediterranean basin, Sardinian waters showed a lower impact, possibly as a consequence of multiple factors such as the lower human population density and the low flow of the main rivers, among others. In addition, fishermen behaviour with respect to marine litter was investigated by mean of anonymous questionnaires, emphasizing the necessity to further develop management policies and infrastructures supporting litter disposal.

Andrea Alvito, Andrea Bellodi, Alessandro Cau and al., Waste Management, Available online 17 February 2018, In Press

The article