The strandline is one of the first deposition habitats of microplastics before they are integrated to the beach as a standing stock or finally removed. Beaches, entirely or partially protected by beachrocks, have different sediment dynamics and therefore may present variation in microplastic deposition. The aim of this work was to test if protected and unprotected (i.e., exposed to waves) areas of a sandy beach present different microplastic accumulation on the strandline – a habitat greatly influenced by both water and sediment dynamics. Microplastic (MP) amounts were significantly higher at the protected area (Mprotected = 642.6 ± 514.8 MP m−2, Mexposed = 130.6 ± 126.8 MP m−2, Mann-Whitney U test, U = 14.5, p = 0.0009), showing that beachrocks influence microplastic accumulation on the beach face. Therefore, hard structures parallel to the beach may also affect microplastics deposition on beach sediments, being important to consider these structures on microplastic surveys.
Pollution and Marine Debris
The presence of plastic marine debris in our oceans has emerged rapidly in the last few years as an environmental impact urgently in need of attention, and plastic will be a pollutant of concern for the foreseeable future. Concerns have been raised about possible adverse health impacts as a result of microplastic ingestion by marine wildlife as well as human seafood consumers, yet there is very little data to inform appropriate management actions and consumer advice. Now is the time to consider the best strategic choices for the research, management and outreach needed to address priority issues around microplastics. It is essential to treat marine plastic pollution not only as an area in need of comprehensive research and waste management solutions, but also as a permanent pollutant in order to formulate management responses similar to those for other pollutants. First, it is essential to consider developing monitoring protocols to gather important baseline information about microplastics to inform management responses. Second, targeted research is needed to identify differences in microplastic accumulation among selected species and fisheries. Third, research is needed to explore potential threshold levels of microplastics in seafood that could trigger management actions or consumer advisories. Finally, a range of model management practices to address microplastics should be considered, such as regulating inputs from wastewater, assessing what consumer advisories are needed, and taking into account localized inputs from gear used in seafood harvesting and cultivation.
Marine plastic debris, including microplastics (<5 mm in size), comprises a suite of chemical ingredients and sorbed chemical contaminants. Thus, microplastics are a potential, and debated, source of anthropogenic chemicals for bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Several studies have investigated the role of microplastics as a vector of contaminants to marine organisms via modeling exercises, laboratory experiments, and field studies. Here, we examined relationships among chemical contaminants and microplastics in lanternfish (family Myctophidae), an important link in marine food webs, from the North Pacific Ocean as a case study from the field. We compared the body burden of several chemical groups (bisphenol A [BPA], nonylphenol [4-NP], octylphenol [4n-OP], alkylphenol ethoxylates [APEs], pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], and polybrominated diphenyl ethers [PBDEs]) in fish caught within and outside the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre where plastic is known to accumulate. We also tested whether there was a relationship between chemical concentrations in fish and plastic density at each sampling location. Mean concentrations of common plastic constituents (BPA, 4-NP, 4n-OP, APEs, and total PBDEs) were comparable between myctophids collected within and outside the North Pacific Gyre. Pesticides were higher in lanternfish caught outside the gyre and were associated with lower plastic density. Total PCBs were also higher in fish outside the gyre. In contrast, lower chlorinated PCB congeners were higher in fish residing in the accumulation zone and were correlated with higher plastic density. This finding is consistent with other studies demonstrating an association between lower chlorinated PCBs and plastics in biota and suggests that microplastic may be a transport mechanism for some chemicals in nature.
Microplastics are emergent contaminants in the marine environment. They enter the ocean in a variety of sizes and shapes, with plastic microfiber being the prevalent form in seawater and in the guts of biota. Most of the laboratory experiments on microplastics has been performed with spheres, so knowledge on the interactions of microfibers and marine organisms is limited. In this study we examined the ingestion of microfibers by the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida using three different types of polymers: nylon, polyester and polypropylene. The polymers were offered to both symbiotic (with algal symbionts) and bleached (without algal symbionts) anemones. The polymers were introduced either alone or mixed with brine shrimp homogenate. We observed a higher percentage of nylon ingestion compared to the other polymers when plastic was offered in the absence of shrimp. In contrast, we observed over 80% of the anemones taking up all types of polymers when the plastics were offered in the presence of shrimp. Retention time differed significantly between symbiotic and bleached anemones with faster egestion in symbiotic anemones. Our results suggest that ingestion of microfibers by sea anemones is dependent both on the type of polymers and on the presence of chemical cues of prey in seawater. The decreased ability of bleached anemones to reject plastic microfiber indicates that the susceptibility of anthozoans to plastic pollution is exacerbated by previous exposure to other stressors. This is particularly concerning given that coral reef ecosystems are facing increases in the frequency and intensity of bleaching events due to global change stressors such as ocean warming and acidification.
Procellariiformes are the most threatened bird group globally, and the group with the highest frequency of marine debris ingestion. Marine debris ingestion is a globally recognized threat to marine biodiversity, yet the relationship between how much debris a bird ingests and mortality remains poorly understood. Using cause of death data from 1733 seabirds of 51 species, we demonstrate a signifcant relationship between ingested debris and a debris-ingestion cause of death (dose-response). There is a 20.4% chance of lifetime mortality from ingesting a single debris item, rising to 100% after consuming 93 items. Obstruction of the gastro-intestinal tract is the leading cause of death. Overall, balloons are the highest-risk debris item; 32 times more likely to result in death than ingesting hard plastic. These fndings have signifcant implications for quantifying seabird mortality due to debris ingestion, and provide identifable policy targets aimed to reduce mortality for threatened species worldwide.
There are no doubts that plastics problem in the ocean environment has become an increasingly worldwide focus in past several decades. A number of experts regard the plastic wastes as one of the hardest anthropogenic threats. The degraded items of large individual plastics lead to millions of microplstics (MPs) ultimately. As a result, the new pollution has appeared in the ocean. The ever-growing MPs have been detected in subtotal sea products, such as sea food and table salts. The MPs can bring potential health risk to people by enrichment in sea products. Furthermore, the economic development of offshore fishery and the marine tourism have been inhibited badly. This article will make a brief review on present studies about MPs in the ocean.
Oil spills are serious environmental issues that potentially can cause adverse effects on marine ecosystems. In some marine areas, like the Baltic Sea, there is a large number of wrecks from the first half of the 20th century, and recent monitoring and field work have revealed release of oil from some of these wrecks. The risk posed by a wreck is governed by its condition, hazardous substances contained in the wreck and the state of the surrounding environment. Therefore, there is a need for a common standard method for estimating the risks associated with different wrecks. In this work a state-of-the-art model is presented for spatial and stochastic risk assessment of oil spills from wrecks, enabling a structured approach to include the complex factors affecting the risk values. A unique feature of this model is its specific focus on uncertainty, facilitating probabilistic calculation of the total risk as the integral expected sum of many possible consequences. A case study is performed in Kattegat at the entrance region to the Baltic Sea to map the risk from a wreck near Sweden. The developed model can be used for oil spill risk assessment in the marine environment all over the world.
Mismanaged waste is accumulating at an alarming rate in the marine environment. Its presence has caused local authorities in the Balearic Islands to develop a coastal sea-cleaning boat service covering the region, identifying the floating marine debris, and removing it from the coastal areas. This study considered daily monitoring from May to October spanning from 2005 to 2015. Plastic marine debris composed over 54% of all floating marine debris removed daily across the Balearic Islands. The spatio-temporal patterns indicate a heterogeneous distribution of plastic in the coastal areas, with higher concentrations in the north-western and south-eastern regions of the islands and debris peaking during the month of August. Furthermore, floating marine debris was more easily collected during calm seas as well as using an integrated monitoring approach to facilitate its removal. Overall, sea-cleaning boats are highly effective in removing coastal floating marine debris.
As documented by the numerous publications that have appeared in recent years, plastic pollution of the environment and the effects on the respective ecosystems are currently one of the most intensely discussed issues in environmental science and in society at large. Of special concern are the effects of micro- and nano-sized plastics. A key issue in understanding the fate and potential effects of micro- and nano-sized plastics is their dynamic nature, as the size, shape, and charge of the particles change over time. Moreover, due to various biological processes, such as the aggregation of organic material and/or bacteria (“biofouling”), the density of plastic particles that settle in the sediments of aquatic ecosystems may be several orders of magnitudes higher than that in the surrounding waters. Consequently, the risk posed by plastic pollution to benthic fauna is considerably high. Nonetheless, the vast majority of studies examining the effects of microplastics have focused on pelagic organisms so far. We therefore conducted a comprehensive literature review to examine the impact of micro- and nano-sized plastics on benthic invertebrates, including the physical and chemical effects of leaching and the interactions of plastic particles with contaminants. Overall, 330 papers were reviewed for their fulfillment of different criteria (e.g., test species, plastic material, particle shape, particle size, exposure concentration, exposure route, assay type, assay duration), with 49 publications finally included in our survey. A comprehensive gap-analysis on the effects of plastic particles on benthic invertebrates revealed a wide variety of effects triggered by micro- and/or nano-sized plastics but also distinct differences regarding the plastic materials tested, the size fractions applied, the shape of the respective particles, and the exposure routes tested. Our review concludes with a discussion of the important research gaps concerning freshwater ecosystems and recommendations for future areas of research.
Several species found in the Bering Sea show significant spatial variation in total mercury concentrations ([THg]) longitudinally along the Aleutian Island chain. We assessed [THg] in other members of the Bering Sea food web to better understand the factors shaping regional differences. [THg] and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (δ15N and δ13C values) were measured in muscle tissue from 1052 fishes and cephalopods from parts of the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean adjacent to the Aleutian Islands. The spatial distribution of the samples enabled regional comparisons for 8 species of fish and one species of cephalopod. Four species showed higher mean length-standardized [THg] in the western Aleutian Islands management area. [THg] in yellow Irish lord were very different relative to those observed in other species and when included in multi-species analyses drove the overall regional trends in mean [THg]. Multi-species analyses excluding measurements for yellow Irish lord showed mean length-standardized [THg] was greater in the western Aleutian Islands than in the central Aleutian Islands management area. Linear regression of [THg] and δ15N values showed a significant and positive relationship across all species, varying between regions and across species. Isotopic space of all species was significantly different between the western Aleutian Islands and central Aleutian Islands, driven largely by δ13C values. Stable isotope values observed follow the same regional trend of lower trophic taxa reported in the literature, with significantly lower δ13C values in the western Aleutian Islands. We conclude that there are regional differences in carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ecology, as well as species-specific feeding ecology that influence [THg] dynamics in part of the marine food web along the Aleutian Island chain. These regional differences are likely contributors to the observed regional variations of [THg] in some high-level predators found in these regions.