Chapter

Marine Anthropogenic Litter

pp 29-56

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Date:

Global Distribution, Composition and Abundance of Marine Litter

  • François GalganiAffiliated withIFREMER, LER/PAC, ZI furiani Email author 
  • , Georg HankeAffiliated withEC JRC, IES, European Commission Joint Research Centre
  • , Thomas MaesAffiliated withCEFAS

Abstract

Marine debris is commonly observed everywhere in the oceans. Litter enters the seas from both land-based sources, from ships and other installations at sea, from point and diffuse sources, and can travel long distances before being stranded. Plastics typically constitute the most important part of marine litter sometimes accounting for up to 100 % of floating litter. On beaches, most studies have demonstrated densities in the 1 item m−2 range except for very high concentrations because of local conditions, after typhoons or flooding events. Floating marine debris ranges from 0 to beyond 600 items km−2. On the sea bed, the abundance of plastic debris is very dependent on location, with densities ranging from 0 to >7700 items km−2, mainly in coastal areas. Recent studies have demonstrated that pollution of microplastics, particles <5 mm, has spread at the surface of oceans, in the water column and in sediments, even in the deep sea. Concentrations at the water surface ranged from thousands to hundred thousands of particles km−2. Fluxes vary widely with factors such as proximity of urban activities, shore and coastal uses, wind and ocean currents. These enable the presence of accumulation areas in oceanic convergence zones and on the seafloor, notably in coastal canyons. Temporal trends are not clear with evidences for increases, decreases or without changes, depending on locations and environmental conditions. In terms of distribution and quantities, proper global estimations based on standardized approaches are still needed before considering efficient management and reduction measures.

Keywords

Marine litter Plastic Distribution Beaches Seafloor Microplastics Floating litter