Mistaking plastic for zooplankton: Risk assessment of plastic ingestion in the Mediterranean sea

Type Article
Date 2023-01
Language English
Author(s) Fabri-Ruiz SalomeORCID1, 2, Baudena A.1, Moullec Fabien3, Lombard F.1, Irisson J.-O.1, Pedrotti M.L.1
Affiliation(s) 1 : Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
2 : DECOD (Ecosystem Dynamics and Sustainability), IFREMER, INRAE, Institut Agro, Nantes, France
3 : Department of Coastal Systems, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, P.O. Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, the Netherlands
Source Science Of The Total Environment (0048-9697) (Elsevier BV), 2023-01 , Vol. 856 , N. Part.2 , P. 159011 (11p.)
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159011
WOS© Times Cited 7
Keyword(s) Marine plastic pollution, Tara Mediterranean expedition, Plastic to zooplankton ratio, Pelagos sanctuary, Zooplankton abundance

Floating plastic debris is a pervasive pollutant in seas and oceans, affecting a wide range of animals. In particular, microplastics (<5 mm in size) increase the possibility that marine species consume plastic and enter the food chain. The present study investigates this potential mistake between plastic debris and zooplankton by calculating the plastic debris to zooplankton ratio over the whole Mediterranean Sea. To this aim, in situ data from the Tara Mediterranean Expedition are combined with environmental and Lagrangian diagnostics in a machine learning approach to produce spatially-explicit maps of plastic debris and zooplankton abundance. We then analyse the plastic to zooplankton ratio in regions with high abundances of pelagic fish. Two of the major hotspots of pelagic fish, located in the Gulf of Gabès and Cilician basin, were associated with high ratio values. Finally, we compare the plastic to zooplankton ratio values in the Pelagos Sanctuary, an important hotspot for marine mammals, with other Geographical Sub-Areas, and find that they were among the larger of the Western Mediterranean Sea. Our results indicate a high potential risk of contamination of marine fauna by plastic and advocate for novel integrated modelling approaches which account for potential trophic transfer within the food chain.

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