This paper investigates the linkage between the acute impacts on apex marine mammals with polar cod responses to an oil spill. It proposes a Bayesian network-based model to link these direct and indirect effects on the apex marine mammals. The model predicts a recruitment collapse (for the scenarios considered), causing a higher risk of mortality of polar bears, beluga whales, and Narwhals in the Arctic region. Whales (adult and calves) were predicted to be at higher risk when the spill was under thick ice, while adult polar bears were at higher risk when the spill occurred on thin ice. A spill over the thick ice caused the least risk to whale and adult polar bears. The spill's timing and location have a significant impact on the animals in the Arctic region due to its unique sea ice dynamics, simple food web, and short periods of food abundance.
Pollution and Marine Debris
Plastic products have played significant roles in protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The widespread use of personal protective gear created a massive disruption in the supply chain and waste disposal system. Millions of discarded single-use plastics (masks, gloves, aprons, and bottles of sanitizers) have been added to the terrestrial environment and could cause a surge in plastics washing up the ocean coastlines and littering the seabed. This paper attempts to assess the environmental footprints of the global plastic wastes generated during COVID-19 and analyze the potential impacts associated with plastic pollution. The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day. We estimate that approximately 3.4 billion single-use facemasks/face shields are discarded daily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, globally. Our comprehensive data analysis does indicate that COVID-19 will reverse the momentum of years-long global battle to reduce plastic waste pollution. As governments are looking to turbo-charge the economy by supporting businesses weather the pandemic, there is an opportunity to rebuild new industries that can innovate new reusable or non-plastic PPEs. The unanticipated occurrence of a pandemic of this scale has resulted in unmanageable levels of biomedical plastic wastes. This expert insight attempts to raise awareness for the adoption of dynamic waste management strategies targeted at reducing environmental contamination by plastics generated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The floating marine debris (FMD) and the associated rafting communities are one of the major stressors to ecosystem services, global biodiversity and economy and human health. In this study, assemblages of encrusting organisms on different types of stranded FMD along the west coast of Qatar, Arabian/Persian Gulf (hereafter referred to as ‘Gulf’) were examined. The analysis showed 18 fouling species belonging to 5 phyla (Annelida, Anthropoda, Bryozoa, Mollusca and Porifera) on the FMD. The most abundant fouling species were the encrusting Amphibalanus amphitrite, polychaete Spirobranchus kraussii, Bryozoan species and Megabalanus coccopoma. More number of taxa were found on larger size FMD than on smaller FMD. Some of the barnacle rafting types were found to be non-indigenous species. The central and northwest parts of the Qatar had more FMD and fouled species than in other locations. Winds and the prevailing hydrodynamic conditions (waves and currents) played an important role in the transportation and distribution of FMD and associated organisms along the west coast of Qatar. The present study confirmed that huge amount of bio-fouled FMD items, causing great damage to biodiversity, drift in the surface layer of ocean and eventually strand onto the beaches. We propose a simple, but an effective management plan for FMD and associated organisms at regional scale to restore the biodiversity, sustainability and health of the marine ecosystem in the Gulf.
Neuston samples were collected with a Manta trawl in the rim of the Arctic Ocean, in the Northern Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea at eleven coastal and open-sea locations. All samples contained plastics identified by FTIR microscopy. Altogether, 110 microplastics pieces were classified according to size, shape, and polymer type. The concentrations at the locations were generally low (x̅ = 0.06, SD ± 0.04 particles m−3) as compared to previous observations. The highest concentrations were found towards the Arctic Ocean, while those in the Baltic Sea were generally low. The most abundant polymer type was polyethylene. Detected particle types were mainly fragments. The number of films and fibers was very low. The mean particle size was 2.66 mm (SD ± 1.55 mm). Clustering analyses revealed that debris compositions in the sea regions had characteristic differences possibly reflecting the dependences between compositions, drifting distances, sinking rates, and local oceanographic conditions.
Plastic pollution has become a global threat to the marine environment. Many studies have indicated that marine creatures are at risk of plastic ingestion, but relevant studies are still lacking in Taiwan. In this study, we quantified plastic debris ingestion by marine fish in the coastal waters of the Hengchun Peninsula, including the Kenting National park, located in southern Taiwan. We also investigated possible biotic and abiotic factors associated with the quantity of ingested plastic by fish. In the 117 fish samples we examined, 94.87% of them had ingested plastic debris, and all of the observed debris was microplastics (<5 mm). The average number of ingested microplastics was 5.6 ± 5.1 pieces per fish (ranged 0–32 pieces per fish). The major type and color of microplastics were fiber (96%) and blue (43%), respectively. The quantity of ingested microplastics was not significantly different between the reef and pelagic fish. However, reef fish from the more populated west and south coast ingested more microplastics than that from the east coast, suggesting that microplastic ingestion by fish is related to human activity. Regarding biotic factors, the size, trophic level, and taxonomic family of the fish were not significantly associated with the number of ingested microplastics. Our results, the first investigation of microplastic ingestion in marine fish of Taiwan, show a high prevalence of microplastic ingestion but no biomagnification of microplastics in the fish. More research is much needed to better characterize the biological and ecological impacts of plastic debris on fish.
Under certain conditions, dispersed crude oil in the sea combines with organisms, organic matter, and minerals to form marine oil snow (MOS), thereby contributing to the sinking of oil to the seafloor. Marine microbes are the main players in MOS formation, particularly via the production of extracellular polymeric substances. Distinct groups of microbes also consume the majority of the hydrocarbons during descent, leading to enrichment of the less bioavailable hydrocarbons and asphaltenes in the residue. Here we discuss the dynamics of microbial communities in MOS together with their impacts on MOS evolution. We explore the effects of dispersant application on MOS formation, and consider ways in which laboratory experiments investigating MOS formation can be more representative of the situation in the marine environment, which in turn will improve our understanding of the contribution of MOS to the fate of spilled oil.
Trace elements (TEs) frequently contaminate coastal marine sediments with many included in priority chemical lists or control legislation. These, improved waste treatment and increased recycling have fostered the belief that TE pollution is declining. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of long-term robust datasets to support this confidence. By mining UK datasets (100s of sites, 31 years), we assess sediment concentrations of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) and use indices (PI [Pollution], TEPI [Trace Element Pollution] and Igeo [Geoaccumulation]) to assess TE pollution evolution. PI and TEPI show reductions of overall TE pollution in the 1980s then incremental improvements followed by a distinct increase (2010–13). Zn, As and Pb Igeo scores show low pollution, whilst Cd and Hg are moderate, but with all remaining temporally stable. Igeo scores are low for Ni, Fe and Cr, but increasing for Ni and Fe. A moderate pollution Igeo score for Cu has also steadily increased since the mid-1990s. Increasing site trends are not universal and, conversely, minimal temporal change masks some site-specific increases and decreases. To capture this variability we strongly advocate embedding sufficient sentinel sites within observation networks. Decreasing sediment pollution levels (e.g. Pb and Hg) have been achieved, but stabilizing Igeo and recently increasing TEPI and PI scores require continued global vigilance. Increasing Ni and Fe Igeo scores necessitate source identification, but this is a priority for Cu. Local, regional and world analyses indicate substantial ‘hidden’ inputs from anti-fouling paints (Cu, Zn), ship scrubbers (Cu, Zn, Ni) and sacrificial anodes (Zn) that are also predicted to increase markedly. Accurate TE input assessments and targeted legislation are, therefore, urgently required, especially in the context of rapid blue economic growth (e.g. shipping).
Marine snow formation and vertical transport are naturally occurring processes that carry organic matter from the surface to deeper waters, providing food and sequestering carbon. During the Deepwater Horizon well blowout, oil was incorporated with marine snow aggregates, triggering a Marine Oil Snow (MOS) Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event, that transferred a significant percentage of the total released oil to the seafloor. An improved understanding of processes controlling MOS formation and MOSSFA events is necessary for evaluating their impacts on the fate of spilled oil. Numerical models and predictive tools capable of providing scientific support for oil spill planning, response, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment are being developed to provide information for weighing the ecological trade-offs of response options. Here we offer considerations for oil spill response and recovery when assessing the potential for a MOSSFA event and provide tools to enhance decision-making.
Measuring local levels of marine pollution by microplastics (MP) and identifying potential sources in coastal areas is essential to evaluate the associated impacts to environment and biota. The accumulation of floating MP at the sea surface is of great concern as the neustonic habitat consists of a feeding ground for primary consumers (including filter-feeders) and active predators, which makes these organisms a relevant via of MP input into the marine trophic chain. Here, a baseline evaluation of MP accumulation at the sea surface was conducted with a neuston net (335 μm mesh) at the Arrábida coastal area, in Portugal. The study site encompasses a marine protected area and an estuary, both under strong anthropogenic pressures due to multiple activities taking place. A short-term investigation on local spatiotemporal distribution, concentration and composition of MP was performed for the first time, through the monthly collection (summer 2018 to winter 2019) of samples at 6 stations. All the neuston samples contained MP and their mean concentration was 0.45 ± 0.52 items m−3 (mean ± SD). Both the averaged MP:neuston and MP:ichthyoplankton ratios were higher in December, when concentrations of organisms decreased. Temporal distribution patterns followed expected trends, as MP concentration was clearly higher in winter months due to precipitation and runoff. Although mean MP concentrations did not vary significantly between sampling stations, there was a spatial distribution of MP in relation to particle shape and size. Fragments were the most abundant shape and MP belonging to 1–2 mm size class were dominant. Amongst a diversity of 10 polymers identified by FTIR analysis, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and copolymer PP/PE were the most abundant. Potential links between local sources/activities and the different polymers were suggested. Altogether, the information provided in this study aims to raise awareness among the identified sectors and consequently to act toward the prevention of MP inputs in the region.
The global distribution of microplastic debris on the sea floor poses an increasing risk to marine organisms and ecosystems. Here, we present a distribution analysis of microplastics collected from eight marine multicores recovered from the Iceland continental shelf and surrounding areas at water depth between 241 and 1628 m. We report a total of 306 microplastics from the size range > 250 μm −5 mm, of which all were fibers. Microplastic numbers range between 0.119 and 0.768 per gram of dry sediments. In the analysis we assess the potential role of oceanic surface and bottom water currents, organic content, and sediment type on the distribution, deposition, and burial of microplastics in marine sediments. Our results provide the first record of microplastic pollution of marine sediments from the Iceland continental shelf and identify Atlantic Cod feeding and breeding grounds as potential hot spot for the accumulation of marine debris.