Folder Crosscutting Studies

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pdf Bergmann, M., et al. (2015). Marine Anthropogenic Litter, Springer.

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Bergmann-2015-Marine anthropogenic litter.pdf

Bergmann, M., et al. (2015). Marine Anthropogenic Litter, Springer.
No Abstract Available

pdf do Sul, J. A. I. and M. F. Costa (2014). "The present and future of microplastic pollution in the marine environment." Environmental Pollution 185: 352-364.

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Ivar do Sul-2014-The present and future of mic.pdf

do Sul, J. A. I. and M. F. Costa (2014). "The present and future of microplastic pollution in the marine environment." Environmental Pollution 185: 352-364.
Recently, research examining the occurrence of microplastics in the marine environment has substantially increased. Field and laboratory work regularly provide new evidence on the fate of microplastic debris. This debris has been observed within every marine habitat. In this study, at least 101 peer-reviewed papers investigating microplastic pollution were critically analysed (Supplementary material). Microplastics are commonly studied in relation to (1) plankton samples, (2) sandy and muddy sediments, (3) vertebrate and invertebrate ingestion, and (4) chemical pollutant interactions. All of the marine organism groups are at an eminent risk of interacting with microplastics according to the available literature. Dozens of works on other relevant issues (i.e., polymer decay at sea, new sampling and laboratory methods, emerging sources, externalities) were also analysed and discussed. This paper provides the first in-depth exploration of the effects of microplastics on the marine environment and biota. The number of scientific publications will increase in response to present and projected plastic uses and discard patterns. Therefore, new themes and important approaches for future work are proposed.

pdf Strand, J., et al. (2015). Marine litter in Nordic waters, Nordic Council of Ministers.

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Strand-2015-Marine litter in Nordic waters.pdf

Strand, J., et al. (2015). Marine litter in Nordic waters, Nordic Council of Ministers.
In recent years there has been an increased focus on environmental problems arising from litter pollution in the oceans after various studies have described instances of vast amounts of litter including microscopic particles consisting of plastic debris and other synthetic materials. International institutions such as EU, OSPAR, HELCOM and UN have identified marine litter as an important issue that should be prioritized both in terms of knowledge building and the development of environmental indicators that can be used for characterization of the environmental quality. In Europe, marine litter is now high on the environmental agenda, especially after the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) with obligations for all the EU member states. Subsequently, marine litter has also received increasing attention in the Nordic countries. In Nordic countries, there has been and are also several on-going field studies, including research, monitoring and other types of surveys. These studies demonstrate ubiquitous occurrence of marine litter in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic as well as in the Arctic, where marine litter have been found in all relevant marine compartments, i.e. at beaches, in the water column (incl. sea ice), on the sea floor (incl. in sediments) and in biota. This report provides an overview of the currently available data from studies on marine litter in the Nordic countries. This covers various field studies on amount, distribution, characteristics and impact of macro- and micro-litter particles. The data reported can provide a good basis for prioritisation of activities, especially having the establishment of marine litter indicators for MSFD monitoring and national management plans in the Nordic countries in mind. However, results from the different Nordic studies are not always comparable due to employment of different methodologies for sampling and analyses have been employed. There is therefore a need for a common assemblage of knowledge and experience, and also a standartisation of methods based on the regional conditions that facilitate the framing of this environmental problem in a Nordic perspective. This report compiles information tha tcan be used as a contribution to this process.

pdf Trevail, A. M., et al. (2015). “The state of marine microplastic pollution in the Arctic”. Kortrapport/Brief Report No. 033, Norsk Polarinstitutt.

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Trevail-2015-The state of marine microplastic.pdf

Trevail, A. M., et al. (2015). “The state of marine microplastic pollution in the Arctic”. Kortrapport/Brief Report No. 033, Norsk Polarinstitutt.
The problem of global plastic pollution is one of the most visible, and well documented, environmental changes of recent decades. The Arctic region is opening up to increasing commercial activity as sea ice melts, and will become increasingly influenced due to the detrimental effects caused by the trillions of pieces of plastic floating in our world’s oceans today.
Microplastics (< five mm in diameter) can flow directly to the environment undisturbed by waste water treatment plants from applications in cosmetics, for example, or can result from eventual fragmentation of larger plastics. By nature of their small size and ubiquitous presence across different ecosystems, microplastics are available for ingestion by all trophic levels, thus the potential for detrimental effects is substantial. Plastics can transport invasive species and pollutants over long distances, both of which could act as further stressors in the Arctic under climate warming scenarios. Plastic ingestion can disrupt functions of invertebrates, and can transfer a chemical burden to organisms. Population effects of plastic ingestion are largely unknown.
Here we collate and summarise accounts of microplastic pollution in the Arctic. Very little information exists about microplastic pollution in the Arctic. This review found no records for surface trawls in the Arctic, sediment microplastic loads or coastal shore pollution. The only quantitative records that exist are biological records and sea ice records. Microplastic encounters by Arctic animals exist for seven species, of which four are seabirds, two cetaceans and one shark species. From comparative studies with northern fulmars, plastic pollution levels in the European Arctic are higher than expected when compared to lower latitudes, most likely because of water currents. Levels of plastic in sea ice are higher than in the most polluted of oceanic gyres (38 to 234 pieces per m3), and warn of a legacy of plastic that will be released as sea ice melts.
The many gaps in our knowledge of microplastic pollution in the Arctic require further studies. Nevertheless, a lack of information in the region should not be considered as a lack of a problem, and should not hold back any action intending to reduce marine litter in the region.

pdf UNEP (2015) Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions concerns an impacts on marine environments. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.

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UNEP-2015-Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Li.pdf

UNEP (2015) Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions concerns an impacts on marine environments. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.
The development and use of synthetic polymers, and plastics has conferred widespread benefits on society. One of the most notable properties of these materials is their durability which, combined with their accidental loss, deliberate release and poor waste management has resulted in the ubiquitous presence of plastic in oceans. As most plastics in common use are very resistant to biodegradation, the quantity of plastic in the ocean is increasing, together with the risk of significant physical or chemical impacts on the marine environment. The nature of the risk will depend on: the size and physical characteristics of the objects; the chemical composition of the polymer; and, the time taken for complete biodegradation to occur (GESAMP 2015).
Synthetic polymers can be manufactured from fossil fuels or recently-grown biomass. Both sources can be used to produce either non-biodegradable or biodegradable plastics. Many plastics will weather and fragment in response to UV radiation – a process that can be slowed down by the inclusion of specific additives. Complete biodegradation of plastic occurs when none of the original polymer remains, a process involving microbial action; i.e. it has been broken down to carbon dioxide, methane and water. The process is temperature dependent and some plastics labelled as ‘biodegradable’ require the conditions that typically occur in industrial compositing units, with prolonged temperatures of above 50°C, to be completely broken down. Such conditions are rarely if ever met in the marine environment.
Some common non-biodegradable polymers, such as polyethylene, are manufactured with a metal-based additive that results in more rapid fragmentation (oxo-degradable). This will increase the rate of microplastic formation but there is a lack of independent scientific evidence that biodegradation will occur any more rapidly than unmodified polyethylene. Other more specialised polymers will break down more readily in seawater, and they may have useful applications, for example, to reduce the impact of lost or discarded fishing gear. However, there is the potential that such polymers may compromise the operational requirement of the product. In addition, they are much more expensive to produce and financial incentives may be required to encourage uptake.
A further disadvantage of the more widespread adoption of ‘biodegradable’ plastics is the need to separate them from the non-biodegradable waste streams for plastic recycling to avoid compromising the quality of the final product. In addition, there is some albeit limited evidence to suggest that labelling a product as ‘biodegradable’ will result in a greater inclination to litter on the part of the public (GESAMP 2015). 
In conclusion, the adoption of plastic products labelled as ‘biodegradable’ will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment, on the balance of current scientific evidence.