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Using expert elicitation to estimate the impacts of plastic pollution on marine wildlife

Citation

Wilcox, C and Mallos, NJ and Leonard, GH and Rodriguez, A and Hardesty, BD, Using expert elicitation to estimate the impacts of plastic pollution on marine wildlife, Marine Policy, 65 pp. 107-114. ISSN 0308-597X (2016) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2016 TheAuthors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2015.10.014

Abstract

Marine litter is a growing environmental concern. With the rapid increase in global plastics production and the resulting large volume of litter that enters the marine environment, determining the consequences of this debris on marine fauna and ocean health has now become a critical environmental priority, particularly for threatened and endangered species. However, there are limited data about the impacts of debris on marine species from which to draw conclusions about the population consequences of anthropogenic debris. To address this knowledge gap, information was elicited from experts on the ecological threat (both severity and specificity) of entanglement, ingestion and chemical contamination for three major marine taxa: seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals. The threat assessment focused on the most common types of litter that are found along the world's coastlines, based on data gathered during three decades of international coastal clean-up efforts. Fishing related gear, balloons and plastic bags were estimated to pose the greatest entanglement risk to marine fauna. In contrast, experts identified a broader suite of items of concern for ingestion, with plastic bags and plastic utensils ranked as the greatest threats. Entanglement and ingestion affected a similar range of taxa, although entanglement was rated as slightly worse because it is more likely to be lethal. Contamination was scored the lowest in terms of impact, affecting a smaller portion of the taxa and being rated as having solely non-lethal impacts. This work points towards a number of opportunities both for policy-based and consumer-driven changes in plastics use that could have demonstrable affects for a range of ecologically important taxa that serve as indicators of marine ecosystem health.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:chemical contamination, elicitation survey, entanglement, ingestion, marine debris, marine mammal, plastic pollution, seabird, turtle
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental Science and Management
Research Field:Environmental Management
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards
Objective Field:Coastal and Marine Management Policy
UTAS Author:Wilcox, C (Dr Chris Wilcox)
UTAS Author:Hardesty, BD (Dr Britta Hardesty)
ID Code:118410
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:45
Deposited By:Directorate
Deposited On:2017-07-11
Last Modified:2018-05-09
Downloads:97 View Download Statistics

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