Distribution and assessment of marine debris in the deep Tyrrhenian Sea (NW Mediterranean Sea, Italy)

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: Michela Angiolillo, Bianca di Lorenzo, Alessio Farcomeni, Marzia Bo,
Giorgio Bavestrello, Giovanni Santangelo, Angelo Cau, Vincenza
Mastascusa, Alessandro Cau, Flavio Sacco, Simonepietro Canese


Marine debris is a recognized global ecological concern. Little is known about the extent of the problem in the Mediterranean Sea regarding litter distribution and its influence on deep rocky habitats. A quantitative assessment of debris present in the deep seafloor (30–300 m depth) was carried out in 26 areas off the coast of three Italian regions in the Tyrrhenian Sea, using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The dominant type of debris (89%) was represented by fishing gears, mainly lines, while plastic objects were recorded only occasionally. Abundant quantities of gears were found on rocky banks in Sicily and Campania (0.09–0.12 debris m−2), proving intense fishing activity. Fifty-four percent of the recorded debris directly impacted benthic organisms, primarily gorgonians, followed by black corals and sponges. This work provides a first insight on the impact of marine debris in Mediterranean deep ecosystems and a valuable baseline for future comparisons.

The Impact of Polystyrene Microplastics on Feeding, Function and Fecundity in the Marine Copepod Calanus helgolandicus

Source: ACS Publications

Authors: Matthew Cole, Pennie Lindeque, Elaine Fileman, Claudia Halsband, and Tamara S. Galloway


Microscopic plastic debris, termed “microplastics”, are of increasing environmental concern. Recent studies have demonstrated that a range of zooplankton, including copepods, can ingest microplastics. Copepods are a globally abundant class of zooplankton that form a key trophic link between primary producers and higher trophic marine organisms. Here we demonstrate that ingestion of microplastics can significantly alter the feeding capacity of the pelagic copepod Calanus helgolandicus. Exposed to 20 μm polystyrene beads (75 microplastics mL–1) and cultured algae ([250 μg C L–1) for 24 h, C. helgolandicus ingested 11% fewer algal cells (P = 0.33) and 40% less carbon biomass (P < 0.01). There was a net downward shift in the mean size of algal prey consumed (P < 0.001), with a 3.6 fold increase in ingestion rate for the smallest size class of algal prey (11.6–12.6 μm), suggestive of postcapture or postingestion rejection. Prolonged exposure to polystyrene microplastics significantly decreased reproductive output, but there were no significant differences in egg production rates, respiration or survival. We constructed a conceptual energetic (carbon) budget showing that microplastic-exposed copepods suffer energetic depletion over time. We conclude that microplastics impede feeding in copepods, which over time could lead to sustained reductions in ingested carbon biomass.

Monitoring the impact of litter in large vertebrates in the Mediterranean Sea within the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD): constraints, specificities and recommendations

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: F. Galgani, F. Claro, M. Depledge, C. Fossi


In its decision (2010/477/EU) relating to the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EC), the European Commission identified the following points as focuses for monitoring:

(i) 10.1.1: Trends in the amount, source and composition of litter washed ashore and/or deposited on coastlines,

(ii) 10.1.2: Trends in the amount and composition of litter in the water column and accumulation on the sea floor,

(iii) 10.1.3: Trends in the amount, distribution and composition of micro-particles (mainly microplastics), and

(iv) 10.2.1 Trends in the amount and composition of litter ingested by marine animals.

Monitoring the impacts of litter will be considered further in 2014. At that time, the strategy will be discussed in the context of the Mediterranean Sea, providing information on constraints, protocols, existing harm and research needed to support monitoring efforts.

The definition of targets and acceptable levels of harm must take all factors into account, whether entanglement, ingestion, the transport and release of pollutants, the transport of alien species and socio-economic impacts. It must also reflect on the practical deployment of “ingestion” measures (10.2.1). The analysis of existing data will reveal the potential and suitability of some higher trophic level organisms (fish, turtles, birds and mammals) for monitoring the adverse effects of litter. Sea turtles appear to be useful indicator species, but the definition of an ecological quality objective is still needed, as well as research on alternative potential indicator species.

Large filter feeding marine organisms as indicators of microplastic in the pelagic environment: the case studies of the Mediterranean basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: Maria Cristina Fossi, Daniele Coppola, Matteo Baini, Matteo Giannetti, Cristiana Guerranti, Letizia Marsili, Cristina Panti, Eleonora de Sabata, Simona Clò


The impact of microplastics (plastic fragments smaller than 5 mm) on large filter feeding marine organisms such as baleen whales and sharks are largely unknown. These species potentially are ingesting micro-litter by filter feeding activity. Here we present the case studies of the Mediterranean fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) and basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) exploring the toxicological effects of microplastics in these species measuring the levels of phthalates in both species. The results show higher concentration of MEHP in the muscle of basking shark in comparison to fin whale blubber. These species can be proposed as indicators of microplastics in the pelagic environment in the implementation of Descriptor 8 and 10 of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Interaction between loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and marine litter in Sardinia (Western Mediterranean Sea)

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: Andrea Camedda, Stefano Marra, Marco Matiddi, Giorgio Massaro, Stefania
Coppa, Angelo Perilli, Angelo Ruiu, Paolo Briguglio, G. Andrea de Lucia


Anthropogenic debris in the environment affects many species that accidentally ingest it. The aim of this study is to evaluate the quantity and composition of marine litter ingested by loggerheads in Sardinia, thus supplying for the lack of data in the existing literature for this area. Seventeen of the 121 (14.04%) monitored turtles presented debris in their digestive tracts. Litter in faecal pellet of alive individuals (n = 91) and in gastro-intestinal contents of dead ones (n = 30) was categorized, counted and weighed. User plastic was the main category of ingested debris with a frequency of occurrence of 13.22% of the total sample, while sheet (12.39%) and fragments (9.09%) were the most relevant sub-categories. This study highlights for the first time the incidence of litter in alive turtles in Sardinia. This contribution improves the knowledge about marine litter interaction on Caretta caretta as bio-indicator. Results will be useful for the Marine Strategy implementation.

Wild gudgeons (Gobio gobio) from French rivers are contaminated by microplastics: Preliminary study and first evidence

Source: Science Direct

Authors: Wilfried Sanchez, Coline Bender, Jean-Marc Porcher


Marine ecosystem contamination by microplastics is extensively documented. However few data is available on the contamination of continental water bodies and associated fauna. The aim of this study was to address the occurrence of microplastics in digestive tract of gudgeons (Gobio gobio) from French rivers. These investigations confirm that continental fish ingested microplastics while 12% of collected fish are contaminated by these small particles. Further works are needed to evaluate the occurence of this contamination.

Microplastic ingestion decreases energy reserves in marine worms

Source: Current Biology

Stephanie L. Wright, Darren Rowe, Richard C. Thompson, Tamara S. Galloway


The indiscriminate disposal of plastic to the environment is of concern. Microscopic plastic litter (<5 mm diameter; ‘microplastic’) is increasing in abundance in the marine environment, originating from the fragmentation of plastic items and from industry and personal-care products. On highly impacted beaches, microplastic concentrations (<1mm) can reach 3% by weight, presenting a global conservation issue. Microplastics are a novel substrate for the adherence of hydrophobic contaminants, deposition of eggs, and colonization by unique bacterial assemblages. Ingestion by indiscriminate deposit-feeders has been reported, yet physical impacts remain understudied. Here, we show that deposit-feeding marine worms maintained in sediments spiked with microscopic unplasticised polyvinylchloride (UPVC) at concentrations overlapping those in the environment had significantly depleted energy reserves by up to 50%. Our results suggest that depleted energy reserves arise from a combination of reduced feeding activity, longer gut residence times of ingested material and inflammation.