Data on the occurrence and abundance of meso and microplastics for the South Pacific are limited and there is urgent need to fill this knowledge gap. The main aim of the study was to apply a rapid screening method, based on the fluorescence tagging of polymers using Nile red, to determine the concentration of meso and microplastics in biota, sediment and surface waters near the capital cities of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. A spatial investigation was carried out for sediment, biota and water as well as a temporal assessment for sediment for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018). Accumulation zones for microplastics were identified supported by previous hydrodynamic models. Microplastics were detected for all environmental compartments investigated indicating their widespread presence for Vanuatu and Solomons Islands. This method was in alignment with previous recommendations that the Nile red method is a promising approach for the largescale mapping of microplastics in a monitoring context.
Pollution and Marine Debris
Entanglements affect marine mammal species around the globe, and for some, those impacts are great enough to cause population declines. This study aimed to document rates and causes of entanglement and trends in local haulout abundance for Steller and California sea lions on the north coast of Washington from 2010–2018. We conducted small boat surveys to count sea lions and document entangled individuals. Rates of entanglement and entangling material occurrence were compared with records of stranded individuals on the Washington and Oregon coast and with packing bands recorded during beach debris surveys. The rate of entanglement for California sea lions was 2.13%, almost entirely composed of adult males, with a peak rate during June and July potentially due to some entangled individuals not migrating to their breeding grounds. For Steller sea lions, the rate of entanglement was 0.41%, composed of 77% adults (32.4% male, 63.3% female), 17.1% juveniles, 5.9% unknown age, and no pups. Steller sea lions exhibited a 7.9% ± 3.2 rate of increase in abundance at the study haulouts, which was similar to that seen in California sea lions (7.8% ± 4.2); both increases were greater than the population growth rates observed range-wide despite high rates of entanglement. Most entanglements for both species were classified as packing bands, followed by entanglement scars. Salmon flashers were also prevalent and only occurred from June–September during the local ocean salmon troll fishery. Packing band occurrence in beach debris surveys correlated with packing band entanglements observed on haulouts. However, no packing band entanglements were observed in the stranding record and the rate of stranded animals exhibiting evidence of entanglement was lower than expected, indicating that entanglement survival is higher than previously assumed. Future studies tracking individual entanglement outcomes are needed to develop effective, targeted management strategies.
Background: Ecological impacts of micro- and nanoplastics particles (MNP) are among the most discussed environmental concerns. In algae, MNP are commonly hypothesized to reduce growth, which is a standard ecotoxicological endpoint. However, the reported test outcomes vary, with both growth inhibition and stimulation being observed. Due to this conflict of information, a data synthesis for MNP potential to cause growth inhibition in toxicity testing is needed.
Methods: We performed a meta-analysis study to assess the effect of MNP exposure on algal growth. Twenty studies published between 2010 and 2020 and representing 16 algal species and five polymer materials administered as particles in size range 0.04–3,000 μm were included in this meta-analysis. A random-effect model was used to estimate the effect size in three datasets: (1) Low concentration range (<100 mg/L), (2) High concentration range (≥100 mg/L), and (3) Full range model (0.004–1,100 mg/L), which encompassed all studies using the combination of experimental settings (test species, MNP concentration, polymer material, and particle size) yielding the highest effect size within a study.
Results: The exposure to MNP was not significantly associated with growth inhibition in any of the models tested. However, a high heterogeneity between the studies was found in all three models. Neither MNP concentration nor polymer material contributed significantly to the heterogeneity, whereas polymer density had a significant moderating effect, with a higher risk of growth inhibition at lower densities. We also identified a publication bias, with small studies that reported significant inhibition being overrepresented in our dataset.
Conclusions: The meta-analysis found limited evidence for MNP effect on microalgal growth in the standard algal growth inhibition test. The heterogeneity and varying methodological quality of studies limited the interpretation and the confidence in the findings. For hazard assessment, standardization and controlled exposure are needed as well as more sensitive endpoints that can inform us about the effect mechanisms. Finally, using particle-free controls in such tests cannot account for the presence of inert particulates in the test system, and, hence, does not allow to attribute observed effects to the test polymers.
The persistence and global presence of plastic materials in both aquatic (Andrady, 2011; Akindele et al., 2019) and terrestrial ecosystems (Al-Jaibachi et al., 2018) has resulted in the conception of a new era—“The Plasticene” (Reed, 2015). The idea of a “Plasticene” era has been receiving growing support in recent years as research confirms the long-term persistence of plastic pollution and contaminants in the marine environment and suggests that discarded plastics can be traceable through future fossil records (Corcoran et al., 2014). Researchers are still finding new forms of plastic pollution and contamination worldwide (Gestoso et al., 2019; Haram et al., 2020), but one thing is clear: tackling plastic pollution in the marine environment requires concerted strategies and strong actions from policy makers and stakeholders on a global scale. Indeed, several efforts are already in place at the international, regional, and national levels, with several instruments [e.g., United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Regional Sea Programme, and the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)] being developed in recent decades to reduce and manage marine litter (Chen, 2015).
The incessant and growing delivery of plastic trash and debris to our oceans is recognized now as one of the most relevant pollution problems across the planet, impacting marine life through its ingestion, entanglement, or suffocation (Kühn et al., 2015; Rochman et al., 2016; Villarrubia-Gómez et al., 2018). In addition, marine litter is now considered a growing vector for the introduction of non-indigenous species with transoceanic rafting, potentially amplifying species invasions at a global scale (Carlton et al., 2017) and can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of coral disease (Lamb et al., 2018).
In recent years, discussions and debates regarding marine litter have intensified around the globe. Governments, industries, scientists, and the public are increasingly seeking strategies and policies to respond to marine plastic pollution by reducing or banning single-use plastic (SUP) (Chen, 2015; Newman et al., 2015; European Commission, 2018; Tiller et al., 2019; UNEP–United Nations Environment Programme, 2019). In 2018 alone, environmental actions have reached hundreds of millions of people, with countries and several companies making commitments to ban SUP, which estimates suggest will represent 80% of all marine litter, by 2025 (UNEP–United Nations Environment Programme, 2019).
Pollution from anthropogenic marine debris, particularly buoyant plastics, is ubiquitous across marine ecosystems. Due to the persistent nature of plastics in the environment, their buoyancy characteristics, degradation dynamics, and ability to mimic the behavior of natural prey, there exists significant opportunity for marine organisms to ingest these man-made materials. In this study we examined gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of 42 post-hatchling loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles stranded in Northeast Florida. Necropsies revealed abundant numbers of plastic fragments ranging from 0.36 to 12.39 mm in size (length), recovered from the GI tracts of 39 of the 42 animals (92.86%), with GI burdens ranging from 0 to 287 fragments with a mass of up to 0.33 g per turtle. Post-hatchlings weighed from 16.0 to 47.59 g yielding a plastic to body weight percentage of up to 1.23%. Several types of plastic fragments were isolated, but hard fragments and sheet plastic were the most common type, while the dominant frequency of fragment color was white. Fragment size and abundance mixed with natural gut contents suggests significant negative health consequences from ingestion in animals at this life stage. Gaining greater insight into the prevalence of plastic ingestion, the types of plastic and the physiological effects of plastic consumption by multiple life-stages of sea turtles will aid the prioritization of mitigation efforts for the growing marine debris problem. This report demonstrates that plastic ingestion is a critical issue for marine turtles from the earliest stages of life.
The use and management of single use plastics is a major area of concern for the public, regulatory and business worlds. Focusing on the most commonly occurring consumer plastic items present in European freshwater environments, we identified and evaluated consumer-based actions with respect to their direct or indirect potential to reduce macroplastic pollution in freshwater environments. As the main end users of these items, concerned consumers are faced with a bewildering array of choices to reduce their plastics footprint, notably through recycling or using reusable items. Using a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis approach, we explored the effectiveness of 27 plastic reduction actions with respect to their feasibility, economic impacts, environmental impacts, unintended social/environmental impacts, potential scale of change and evidence of impact. The top ranked consumer-based actions were identified as: using wooden or reusable cutlery; switching to reusable water bottles; using wooden or reusable stirrers; using plastic free cotton-buds; and using refill detergent/ shampoo bottles. We examined the feasibility of top-ranked actions using a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to explore the complexities inherent in their implementation for consumers, businesses, and government to reduce the presence of plastic in the environment.
Mitigating plastic pollution requires strong international cooperation because significant volumes of plastic waste are transported across jurisdictions both as waste exports and drifting ocean plastics (OP). Here we estimate which nations are (1) sources for overseas OP reaching Australian waters and (2) destinations receiving OP from Australian sources. We then provide actionable recommendations for mitigating plastic pollution in Australian waters and beyond. We estimated that the vast majority of overseas OP reaching Australia is from Indonesia, and that most of the Australian-sourced OP reaching overseas territories is entering New Zealand. Key actions for mitigating the OP issue in Australia include better governance, upgraded enforcement, and increased investments to reduce fossil fuel-based plastic production and to drastically improve both domestic and international waste management infrastructure and operations.
Ocean ecosystems are suffering from plastic pollution. To prevent further damage, the 3Rs approach suggests reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. Current solutions include developing waste management systems, public awareness, and waste collection projects to reduce and recycle. However, reuse of reclaimed plastic is limited. This study is as part of an ocean-cleaning campaign. The manufacturing process to produce optimists using ocean plastic was evaluated and compared with conventional boat building as baseline. The environmental impact is higher than the baseline due to more material- and energy-intensive processes. However, adapting processes and integrating recycled materials is necessary for more sustainable and circular production systems.
Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) is rarely considered as a pathway for contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). Here, we investigated SGD as a source of CECs in Sydney Harbour, Australia. CEC detection frequencies based on presence/absence of a specific compound were >90% for caffeine, carbamazepine, and dioxins, and overall ranged from 25 to 100% in five studied embayments. SGD rates estimated from radium isotopes explained >80% of observed CEC inventories for one or more compounds (caffeine, carbamazepine, dioxins, sulfamethoxazole, fluoroquinolones and ibuprofen) in four out of the five embayments. Radium-derived residence times imply mixing is also an important process for driving coastal inventories of these persistent chemicals. Two compounds (ibuprofen and dioxins) were in concentrations deemed a high risk to the ecosystem. Overall, we demonstrate that SGD can act as a vector for CECs negatively impacting coastal water quality.
The crisis facing the world’s oceans from plastics is well documented, yet there is little knowledge of the perspectives, experiences and options of the coastal communities facing overwhelming quantities of plastics on their beaches and in their fishing waters. In emerging economies such as those in the Coral Triangle, the communities affected are among the poorest of their countries. To understand the consequences of ocean plastic pollution in coastal regions, through the eyes of local people, this study examines the knowledge, use, disposal and local consequences of single use plastics in remote island communities in two archipelagos of southern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Using mixed methods—a survey of plastic literacy and behaviour, household interviews about purchasing and disposal, and focus group discussions to generate shared mental models—we identify a complex set of factors contributing to extensive plastic leakage into the marine environment. The rising standard of living has allowed people in low resource, remote communities to buy more single-use plastic items than they could before. Meanwhile complex geography and minimal collection services make waste management a difficult issue, and leave the communities themselves to shoulder the impacts of the ocean plastic crisis. Although plastic literacy is low, there is little the coastal communities can do unless presented with better choice architecture both on the supply side and in disposal options. Our results suggest that for such coastal communities improved waste disposal is urgent. Responsible supply chains and non-plastic alternatives are needed. Producers and manufacturers can no longer focus only on low-cost packaged products, without taking responsibility for the outcomes. Without access to biodegradable, environmentally friendly products, and a circular plastic system, coastal communities and surrounding marine ecosystems will continue to be inundated in plastic waste.