Plastic debris occurrence, convergence areas and fin whales feeding ground in the Mediterranean Marine Protected Area Pelagos Sanctuary: a modelling approach

Type Article
Date 2017
Language English
Author(s) Fossi Maria Cristina1, Romeo Teresa2, Panti Matteo1, Marsili Letizia1, Campani Tommaso1, Canese Simonepietro2, Galgani FrancoisORCID3, Druon Jean-Noël4, Airoldi Sabina5, Taddei Stefano6, Fattorini Maria6, Brandini Carlo6, Lapucci Chiara6
Affiliation(s) 1 : Department of Physical, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Siena, Italy
2 : Laboratory of Milazzo, ISPRA, Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Italy
3 : French Res Inst Exploitat Sea, IFREMER, Immeuble Agostini, Corsica, France
4 : Sustainable Resources, Unit D.02 Water and Marine Resources, European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Italy
5 : Thetys research Institute, Italy
6 : LaMMA Consortium - Institute of BioMeteorology, National Council of Research (IBIMET-CNR), Italy
Source Frontiers In Marine Science (2296-7745) (Frontiers Media SA), 2017 , Vol. 4 , N. 167 , P. 15p.
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2017.00167
WOS© Times Cited 132
Keyword(s) floating plastic debris, microplastics, Mediterranean Sea, convergence areas, modeling, fin whales, Marine Protected Area

The Mediterranean Sea is greatly affected by marine litter. In this area, research on the impact of plastic debris (including microplastics) on biota, particularly large filter-feeding species such as the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), is still in its infancy. We investigated the possible overlap between microplastic, mesoplastic and macrolitter accumulation areas and the fin whale feeding grounds in in a pelagic Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI): the Pelagos Sanctuary. Models of ocean circulation and fin whale potential habitat were merged to compare marine litter accumulation with the presence of whales. Additionally, field data on microplastics, mesoplastics and macrolitter abundance and cetacean presence were simultaneously collected. The resulting data were compared, as a multi-layer, with the simulated distribution of plastic concentration and the whale habitat model. These data showed a high occurrence of microplastics (mean: 0.082 items/m2, STD ± 0.079 items/m2) spatial distribution agreed with our modelling results. Areas with high microplastic density significantly overlapped with areas of high macroplastic density. The most abundant polymer detected in all the sampling sites was polyethylene (PE), suggesting fragmentation of larger packaging items as the primary source. To our knowledge, this is the first study in the Pelagos Sanctuary in which the simulated microplastic distribution has been confirmed by field observations. The overlap between the fin whale feeding habitat and the microplastic hot spots is an important contribution for risk assessment of fin whale exposure to microplastics.

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Fossi Maria Cristina, Romeo Teresa, Panti Matteo, Marsili Letizia, Campani Tommaso, Canese Simonepietro, Galgani Francois, Druon Jean-Noël, Airoldi Sabina, Taddei Stefano, Fattorini Maria, Brandini Carlo, Lapucci Chiara (2017). Plastic debris occurrence, convergence areas and fin whales feeding ground in the Mediterranean Marine Protected Area Pelagos Sanctuary: a modelling approach. Frontiers In Marine Science, 4(167), 15p. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :