The effects of plastic bags presence on a macrobenthic community in a polluted estuary
The damaging effects of marine debris on wildlife are often noted through the observation of animals that ingest and/or become entangled in debris. Yet, few studies have evaluated the effects of marine litter on benthic habitats. The aim of this study was to investigate if the presence of plastic bags has any effect on benthic macrofauna in an estuary located in an urban area in North-eastern Brazil. Biogeochemical and macrofauna samples were obtained from 10 different deposition locations (location factor), under, border and distant (treatment factor) from plastic bags. The results did not show any significant alterations in the biogeochemical parameters of the sediment due to treatment effect except for summed microphytobenthic pigments. The macrobenthic community structure responded to treatment. The greatest dissimilarity (34%) was between samples that were under and distant. Effects occurred despite the high dynamics of deposition-resuspension of plastic bags and the dominance of opportunistic species. Changes in community structure are a complex result of plastic bags effects on species ecological interactions in the polluted estuarine environment, attracting deposit feeders, diminishing suspension feeders and providing mechanical protection against predation by seabirds.