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


Dynamics of plastic resin pellets deposition on a microtidal sandy beach: Informative variables and potential integration into sandy beach studies


• Temporal dynamics of plastic resin pellets deposition ashore were investigated.
• Time-related categories depending on weathering of pellets were established.
• It was found a continuous input of pellets, of which about 50% recently released.
• Reduced beach width hosted higher pellets density independently of temporal variables.
• These findings can be integrated in both beach ecology and citizen science.

Lucia Fanini, Fabio Bozzeda, Ecological Indicators, Volume 89, June 2018, Pages 309–316

The article

Weathering impacts the uptake of polyethylene microparticles from toothpaste in Mediterranean mussels (M. galloprovincialis)

Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) were exposed over 21 days to polyethylene (PE) particles (0.01 mg ml−1; 50–570 μm) isolated from toothpaste. PE was deployed in the Outer Oslofjord (Norway) for 21 days, before exposing the mussels to both virgin (PE-V) and weathered PE (PE-W) particles. The mussels ingested both types of particles, but significantly more weathered particles were ingested than virgin (p = .0317), based on PE dosed by weight (mg ml−1) but not when considering particle number (PE-V: 1.18 ± 0.16 particles ml−1; PE-W 1.86 ± 0.66 particles ml-1;). PE particle ingestion resulted in structural changes to the gills and digestive gland, as well as necrosis in other tissues such as the mantle. No differences were found regarding the degree of tissue alteration between PE-virgin and PE-weathered exposures. This current study illustrates the importance of using weathered particles in microplastic exposure studies to reflect the behaviour of plastic particles after entering the marine environment. The observed tissue alterations demonstrate the potential adverse effects to mussels exposed to microplastic particles.

Inger Lise N. Brate, Mercedes Blazquez, Steven J. Brooks, Kevin V. Thomas, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 626, 1 June 2018, Pages 1310–1318

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

Tracking plastics in the Mediterranean: 2D Lagrangian model

Drift of floating debris is studied with a 2D Lagrangian model with stochastic beaching and sedimentation of plastics. An ensemble of >1010 virtual particles is tracked from anthropogenic sources (coastal human populations, rivers, shipping lanes) to environmental destinations (sea surface, coastlines, seabed). Daily analyses of ocean currents and waves provided by CMEMS at a horizontal resolution of 1/16° are used to force the plastics. High spatio-temporal variability in sea-surface plastic concentrations without any stable long-term accumulations is found. Substantial accumulation of plastics is detected on coastlines and the sea bottom. The most contaminated areas are in the Cilician subbasin, Catalan Sea, and near the Po River Delta. Also, highly polluted local patches in the vicinity of sources with limited circulation are identified. An inverse problem solution, used to quantify the origins of plastics, shows that plastic pollution of every Mediterranean country is caused primarily by its own terrestrial sources.

S. Liubartsev, G. Coppini, R. Lecci, E. Clementi and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 129, Issue 1, April 2018, Pages 151–162

The article

Beach litter along various sand dune habitats in the southern Adriatic (E Mediterranean)

Marine litter accumulates on sandy beaches and is an important environmental problem, as well as a threat to habitat types that are among the most endangered according to EU legislation. We sampled 120 random plots (2 × 2 m) in spring 2017 to determine the distribution pattern of beach litter along the zonation of habitat types from sea to the inland.

The most frequent litter items were plastic, polystyrene and glass. A clear increase of litter cover along the sea-inland gradient is evident, and foredunes and pine forests have the highest cover of litter. Almost no litter was present in humid dune slacks. Shoreline and recreational activities are the major source of beach litter, while ocean/waterway activities are more important in the aphytic zone and strandline.

Urban Šilc, Filip Küzmič, Danka Caković, Danijela Stešević, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 353–360

The article

Ingestion of microplastics and natural fibres in Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) and Engraulis encrasicolus (Linnaeus, 1758) along the Spanish Mediterranean coast

The ingestion of microplastics and natural fibres (<5 mm) was assessed for two commercial fish species in the western Mediterranean Sea: Sardina pilchardus and Engraulis encrasicolus. Gastrointestinal tracts from 210 individuals from 14 stations were examined with 14.28–15.24% of the small pelagic fish S. pilchardus and E. encrasicolus having ingested microplastics and natural fibres. A latitudinal increase in condition index (Fulton’s K) of S. pilchardus gave an indication that larger individuals with better physical condition are less likely to ingest microplastics and natural fibres. Fibres were the most frequent particle type (83%) and Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) analysis indicated polyethylene terephthalate was the most common microplastics material (30%). Results from this study show that both microplastics and natural fibres of anthropogenic origin are common throughout the pelagic environment along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

M. Compa, A. Ventero, M. Iglesias and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 89–96

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