Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review

Human populations are using oceans as their household dustbins, and microplastic is one of the components which are not only polluting shorelines but also freshwater bodies globally. Microplastics are generally referred to particles with a size lower than 5 mm. These microplastics are tiny plastic granules and used as scrubbers in cosmetics, hand cleansers, air-blasting. These contaminants are omnipresent within almost all marine environments at present. The durability of plastics makes it highly resistant to degradation and through indiscriminate disposal they enter in the aquatic environment. Today, it is an issue of increasing scientific concern because these microparticles due to their small size are easily accessible to a wide range of aquatic organisms and ultimately transferred along food web. The chronic biological effects in marine organisms results due to accumulation of microplastics in their cells and tissues. The potential hazardous effects on humans by alternate ingestion of microparticles can cause alteration in chromosomes which lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. Because of the recent threat of microplastics to marine biota as well as on human health, it is important to control excessive use of plastic additives and to introduce certain legislations and policies to regulate the sources of plastic litter. By setup various plastic recycling process or promoting plastic awareness programmes through different social and information media, we will be able to clean our sea dustbin in future.

Shivika Sharma, Subhankar Chatterjee, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, , Volume 24, Issue 27, pp 21530–21547

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Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management

The Medellin Declaration on Marine Litter in Life Cycle Assessment and Management was developed during the Conferencia Internacional de Análisis de Ciclo de Vida en Latinoamérica, which took place from 12–15 June in Medellin, Colombia. The Declaration calls for an improved handling of plastic resources and is meant to encourage researchers and relevant stakeholders to develop new methodologies to address marine litter better within Life Cycle Assessments.

The declaration has been co-authored by various stakeholders present at the conference and has been revised in an online-consultation process until the 18th of July. The global life cycle community is invited to join the Medelling Declaration, which is available for signature on the FSLCI website at: https://fslci.org/medellindeclaration

Guido Sonnemann, Sonia Valdivia, The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, , Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 1637–1639

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Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Marine litter from beach-based sources: Case study of an Eastern Mediterranean coastal town

Marine litter has been a serious and growing problem for some decades now. Yet, there is still much speculation among researchers, policy makers and planners about how to tackle marine litter from land-based sources. This paper provides insights into approaches for managing marine litter by reporting and analyzing survey results of litter dispersal and makeup from three areas along an Arab-Israeli coastal town in view of other recent studies conducted around the Mediterranean Sea. Based on our results and analysis, we posit that bathing beach activities should be a high priority for waste managers as a point of intervention and beach-goers must be encouraged to take a more active role in keeping beaches clean. Further, plastic fragments on the beach should be targeted as a first priority for prevention (and cleanup) of marine litter with plastic bottle caps being a high priority to be targeted among plastics. More survey research is needed on non-plastic litter composition for which amounts and geographic dispersal in the region vary greatly from place to place along Mediterranean shores. In general, findings of this study lead us to recommend exploring persuasive beach trash can design coupled with greater enforcement for short term waste management intervention while considering the local socio-economic and institutional context further for long-term efforts.

M. E. Portman, R. E. Brennan, Waste Management, Available online 7 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

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Pervasive plastisphere: First record of plastics in egagropiles (Posidonia spheroids)

The ability of Posidonia oceanica spheroids (egagropiles, EG) to incorporate plastics was investigated along the central Italy coast. Plastics were found in the 52.84% of the egagropiles collected (n = 685). The more represented size of plastics has range within 1–1.5 cm, comparable to the size of natural fibres. Comparing plastics occurring both in EG and in surrounding sand, Polyethylene, Polyester and Nylon were the most abundant polymers in EG, while PSE, PE, PP and PET were the most represented in sand. In particular PE and PP were significantly more represented in sand, while PE, Nylon, Polyester and microfibers (as pills) were more represented in EG. Within plastics found in EG, 26.9% were microfibers as small pills (<1 cm), mainly composed of polyamide, polyester, cotton and PET mixing. These microfibers might be produced by discharges from washing machines and currently represents an emerging pollutant with widespread distribution in marine and freshwater ecosystems.

L. Pietrelli, A. Di Gennaro, P. Menegoni and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 229, October 2017, Pages 1032-1036

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Marine Strategy Framework Directive: Innovative and participatory decision-making method for the identification of common measures in the Mediterranean

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is the European Commission’s flagship initiative for the protection of the European Seas, and the first holistic approach to ensuring that European Seas reach and are maintained at what is called a ‘Good Environmental Status’ by the year 2020. Regional cooperation, especially between neighbouring countries, and involvement of all interested parties, are horizontal principles of the MSFD, and particularly apply to the definition of programmes of measures, the principal instrument through which each Member State will implement its marine strategy. This paper presents the results from a dedicated, participatory, structured decision-making process that was implemented within the framework of the ActionMed project, which aimed to bring experts and policy/decision-makers from Mediterranean neighbouring countries together, to discuss and agree upon common measures for implementation in their sub-regions. It shows that a participatory approach, supported by customised, case specific intelligent tools, that follows expertly facilitated, structured workshops can be a successful way to enhance sub-regional collaboration. The paper also presents the top ranking measures, selected by experts and decision-makers for common implementation in two Mediterranean sub-regions.

Xenia I. Loizidou, Michael I. Loizides, Demetra L. Orthodoxou, Marine Policy, Volume 84, October 2017, Pages 82–89

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Strandings of NE Atlantic gorgonians

Northeast coral gardens provide vital breeding and feeding habitats for fishes of conservation and commercial importance. Such habitats are increasingly at risk of destruction as a result of over fishing, ocean warming, acidification and marine litter.

A key cause for concern regarding the vulnerability of coral gardens to damage from any source is their slow growth rate, and thereby their ability to recover from damage. Hence protected areas are being put in place, which exclude the use of towed demersal fishing gear.

Citizen scientists observed that gorgonian coral (Pink Sea Fans) skeletons were stranding on beaches entangled in marine debris (sea fangles) across southwest England. Further, SCUBA divers reported that gorgonian corals were being caught up and damaged in lost fishing gear and other marine litter.

To determine the cause of the damage to coral gardens, sea fangles were collected and analysed.

The sea fangles were made up of a diverse range of litter from fishing and domestic sources, however, the majority comprised of fishing gear (P < 0.05).

Marine Protected Areas can protect coral gardens from direct fishing pressure, but risks still remain from ghost fishing pressure, demonstrating the need for sources of litter into the environment to be reduced and existing litter removed.

The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) outlines targets for marine litter by 2020. This study highlights the importance of adhering to the MSFD and/or creating more ambitious regulation if the UK re-write existing legislation following BREXIT.

E.V. Sheehan, A. Rees, D. Bridger, T. Williams, J.M. Hall-Spencer, Biological Conservation, Volume 209, May 2017, Pages 482–487

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