Hydrobiologia

, Volume 503, Issue 1–3, pp 59–67 | Cite as

Hitch-hiking on floating marine debris: macrobenthic species in the Western Mediterranean Sea

  • Stefano Aliani
  • Anne Molcard
Article

Abstract

Marine litter has been defined as solid materials of human origin discarded at sea, or reaching the sea through waterways. The effect of marine debris on wildlife, tourism and human health is well documented and there is considerable scientific literature about plastic litter in the sea and over the seabed, mostly highlighting the possible impact on marine mammals and tourism. Dispersal of marine and terrestrial organisms on floating objects has biogeographical and ecological interest. For some species, extension of their geographical range is more likely to be related to transport of mature individuals on floating rafts than to the active or passive dispersal of reproductive propagules. Variability and variety of rafting materials has increased dramatically in recent years and marine litter has been used widely as a raft by ‘hitch-hiking’ species. This paper reports on the benthic invertebrates living on marine debris transported by wind and surface currents over the western Mediterranean Sea. Plastics accounted for the major item of debris because of poor degradability, however glass, cans, fishing nets and polyurethane containers, were also found. Macro-benthos living on raft material comprised mainly molluscs, polychaetes and bryozoans. Large fish were found commonly below large plastic bags. Estimations of the distances that may be covered by hitch-hiking species and the contribution of rafting to the theoretical dispersal of species is provided.

dispersal rafting flotsam benthos Lagrangian model 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Aliani
    • 1
  • Anne Molcard
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CNR, Istituto Scienze Marine - Sezione La Spezia, Forte Santa TeresaPozzuolo di Lerici (SP)Italy
  2. 2.RSMAS-MPO University of MiamiMiamiU.S.A

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