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Eriksen M.,Five GyResearch Institute | Lebreton L.C.M.,Dumpark Data Science | Carson H.S.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | Thiel M.,Católica del Norte University | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans from 24 expeditions (2007-2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N5680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N5891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.


Van Sebille E.,Imperial College London | Van Sebille E.,University of New South Wales | Wilcox C.,CSIRO | Lebreton L.,Dumpark Data Science | And 7 more authors.
Environmental Research Letters | Year: 2015

Microplastic debris floating at the ocean surface can harm marine life. Understanding the severity of this harm requires knowledge of plastic abundance and distributions. Dozens of expeditions measuring microplastics have been carried out since the 1970s, but they have primarily focused on the North Atlantic and North Pacific accumulation zones, with much sparser coverage elsewhere. Here, we use the largest dataset of microplastic measurements assembled to date to assess the confidence we can have in global estimates of microplastic abundance and mass. We use a rigorous statistical framework to standardize a global dataset of plastic marine debris measured using surface-trawling plankton nets and coupled this with three different ocean circulation models to spatially interpolate the observations. Our estimates show that the accumulated number of microplastic particles in 2014 ranges from 15 to 51 trillion particles, weighing between 93 and 236 thousand metric tons, which is only approximately 1% of global plastic waste estimated to enter the ocean in the year 2010. These estimates are larger than previous global estimates, but vary widely because the scarcity of data in most of the world ocean, differences in model formulations, and fundamental knowledge gaps in the sources, transformations and fates of microplastics in the ocean. © 2015 IOP Publishing Ltd.


PubMed | Dumpark Data Science, University of Western Australia, Five GyResearch Institute, eCoast Ltd and 5 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the worlds oceans from 24 expeditions (2007-2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N=680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N=891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.


Carson H.S.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | Nerheim M.S.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | Nerheim M.S.,University of Bergen | Carroll K.A.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | Eriksen M.,Five GyResearch Institute
Marine Pollution Bulletin | Year: 2013

Microorganisms likely mediate processes affecting the fate and impacts of marine plastic pollution, including degradation, chemical adsorption, and colonization or ingestion by macroorganisms. We investigated the relationship between plastic-associated microorganism communities and factors such as location, temperature, salinity, plankton abundance, plastic concentration, item size, surface roughness, and polymer type. Small plastic items from the surface of the North Pacific Gyre in 2011 were examined using scanning electron microscopy. Bacillus bacteria (mean 1664±247 individuals mm-2) and pennate diatoms (1097±154mm-2) were most abundant, with coccoid bacteria, centric diatoms, dinoflagellates, coccolithophores, and radiolarians present. Bacterial abundance was patchy, but increased on foamed polystyrene. Diatom abundance increased on items with rough surfaces and at sites with high plastic concentrations. Morphotype richness increased slightly on larger fragments, and a biogeographic transition occurred between pennate diatom groups. Better characterizing this community will aid in understanding how it interacts with plastic pollution. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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