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A Horizon Scan of research priorities to inform policies aimed at reducing the harm of plastic pollution to biota


Provencher, JF and Liboiron, M and Borrelle, SB and Bond, AL and Rochman, C and Lavers, JL and Avery-Gomm, S and Yamashita, R and Ryan, PG and Lusher, AL and Hammer, S and Bradshaw, H and Khan, J and Mallory, ML, A Horizon Scan of research priorities to inform policies aimed at reducing the harm of plastic pollution to biota, The Science of the Total Environment, 733 Article 139381. ISSN 0048-9697 (2020) [Refereed Article]

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2020 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139381


Plastic pollution in the oceans is a priority environmental issue. The recent increase in research on the topic, coupled with growing public awareness, has catalyzed policymakers around the world to identify and implement solutions that minimize the harm caused by plastic pollution. To aid and coordinate these efforts, we surveyed experts with scientific experience identified through their peer-reviewed publications. We asked experts about the most pressing research questions relating to how biota interact with plastic pollution that in turn can inform policy decisions and research agendas to best contribute to understanding and reducing the harm of plastic pollution to biota. We used a modified Horizon Scan method that first used a subgroup of experts to generate 46 research questions on aquatic biota and plastics, and then conducted an online survey of researchers globally to prioritize questions in terms of their importance to inform policy development. One hundred and fifteen experts from 29 countries ranked research questions in six themes. The questions were ranked by urgency, indicating which research should be addressed immediately, which can be addressed later, and which are of limited relevance to inform action on plastics as an environmental pollutant. We found that questions relating to the following four themes were the most commonly top-ranked research priorities: (i) sources, circulation and distribution of plastics, (ii) type of harm from plastics, (iii) detection of ingested plastics and the associated problems, and (iv) related economies and policy to ingested plastics. While there are many research questions on the topic of impacts of plastic pollution on biota that could be funded and investigated, our results focus collective priorities in terms of research that experts believe will inform effective policy and on-the-ground conservation.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:marine debris, plastic pollution, expert opinion, marine policy, horizon scan
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:Bond, AL (Dr Alexander Bond)
UTAS Author:Lavers, JL (Dr Jennifer Lavers)
ID Code:138954
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:24
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2020-05-14
Last Modified:2020-12-08
Downloads:27 View Download Statistics

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