In search for the sources of plastic marine litter that contaminates the Easter Island Ecoregion

Gennip, Simon Jan van; Dewitte, Boris; Garçon, Véronique; Thiel, Martin; Popova, Ekaterina ORCID:; Drillet, Yann; Ramos, Marcel; Yannicelli, Beatriz; Bravo, Luis; Ory, Nicolas; Luna-Jorquera, Guillermo; Gaymer, Carlos F.. 2019 In search for the sources of plastic marine litter that contaminates the Easter Island Ecoregion. Scientific Reports, 9 (1).

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Subtropical gyres are the oceanic regions where plastic litter accumulates over long timescales, exposing surrounding oceanic islands to plastic contamination, with potentially severe consequences on marine life. Islands’ exposure to such contaminants, littered over long distances in marine or terrestrial habitats, is due to the ocean currents that can transport plastic over long ranges. Here, this issue is addressed for the Easter Island ecoregion (EIE). High-resolution ocean circulation models are used with a Lagrangian particle-tracking tool to identify the connectivity patterns of the EIE with industrial fishing areas and coastline regions of the Pacific basin. Connectivity patterns for “virtual” particles either floating (such as buoyant macroplastics) or neutrally-buoyant (smaller microplastics) are investigated. We find that the South American shoreline between 20°S and 40°S, and the fishing zone within international waters off Peru (20°S, 80°W) are associated with the highest probability for debris to reach the EIE, with transit times under 2 years. These regions coincide with the most-densely populated coastal region of Chile and the most-intensely fished region in the South Pacific. The findings offer potential for mitigating plastic contamination reaching the EIE through better upstream waste management. Results also highlight the need for international action plans on this important issue.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2045-2322
Date made live: 15 May 2020 11:04 +0 (UTC)

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