eCite Digital Repository

Towards the spectral mapping of plastic debris on beaches


Guffogg, JA and Soto-Berelov, M and Jones, SD and Bellman, CJ and Lavers, JL and Skidmore, AK, Towards the spectral mapping of plastic debris on beaches, Remote Sensing, 13, (9) Article 1850. ISSN 2072-4292 (2021) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://

DOI: doi:10.3390/rs13091850


Floating and washed ashore marine plastic debris (MPD) is a growing environmental challenge. It has become evident that secluded locations including the Arctic, Antarctic, and remote islands are being impacted by plastic pollution generated thousands of kilometers away. Optical remote sensing of MPD is an emerging field that can aid in monitoring remote environments where in-person observation and data collection is not always feasible. Here we evaluate MPD spectral features in the visible to shortwave infrared regions for detecting varying quantities of MPD that have accumulated on beaches using a spectroradiometer. Measurements were taken from a range of in situ MPD accumulations ranging from 0.08% to 7.94% surface coverage. Our results suggest that spectral absorption features at 1215 nm and 1732 nm are useful for detecting varying abundance levels of MPD in a complex natural environment, however other absorption features at 931 nm, 1045 nm and 2046 nm could not detect in situ MPD. The reflectance of some in situ MPD accumulations was statistically different from samples that only contained organic debris and sand between 1.56% and 7.94% surface cover; however other samples with similar surface cover did not have reflectance that was statistically different from samples containing no MPD. Despite MPD being detectable against a background of sand and organic beach debris, a clear relationship between the surface cover of MPD and the strength of key absorption features could not be established. Additional research is needed to advance our understanding of the factors, such as type of MPD assemblage, that contribute to the bulk reflectance of MPD contaminated landscapes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:marine debris, plastic pollution, remote island, UAV, drone, remote sensing, spectroscopy
Research Division:Engineering
Research Group:Geomatic engineering
Research Field:Photogrammetry and remote sensing
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Lavers, JL (Dr Jennifer Lavers)
ID Code:144379
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2021-05-19
Last Modified:2022-08-23
Downloads:17 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page