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Differentiating littering, urban runoff and marine transport as sources of marine debris in coastal and estuarine environments


Willis, K and Hardesty, BD and Kriwoken, L and Wilcox, C, Differentiating littering, urban runoff and marine transport as sources of marine debris in coastal and estuarine environments, Scientific Reports, 7 Article 44479. ISSN 2045-2322 (2017) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

2017 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1038/srep44479


Marine debris is a burgeoning global issue with economic, ecological and aesthetic impacts. While there are many studies now addressing this topic, the influence of urbanisation factors such as local population density, stormwater drains and roads on the distribution of coastal litter remains poorly understood. To address this knowledge gap, we carried out standardized surveys at 224 transect surveys at 67 sites in two estuaries and along the open coast in Tasmania, Australia. We explored the relative support for three hypotheses regarding the sources of the debris; direct deposition by beachgoers, transport from surrounding areas via storm water drains and coastal runoff, and onshore transport from the marine system. We found strong support for all three mechanisms, however, onshore transport from the marine reservoir was the most important mechanism. Overall, the three models together explained 45.8 percent of the variation in our observations. Our results also suggest that most debris released into the marine environment is deposited locally, which may be the answer to where all the missing plastic is in the ocean. Furthermore, local interventions are likely to be most effective in reducing land-based inputs into the ocean.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:urban runoff, estuarine, coastal, marine debris
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Willis, K (Dr Kathy Willis)
UTAS Author:Kriwoken, L (Dr Lorne Kriwoken)
ID Code:126952
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:79
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2018-07-04
Last Modified:2018-08-13
Downloads:79 View Download Statistics

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