Several anthropogenic stressors threaten the Mediterranean basin, which is currently regarded as one of the most impacted marine ecoregions globally. Among those stressors, marine plastic litter is causing increasing concern about its environmental and biological consequences, the latter being largely unknown. To improve the understanding of these aspects, here we provide a mapped indicator of the risk of plastic ingestion by the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, an endangered cetacean whose feeding grounds are located within the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, in the north-western Mediterranean Sea. We analyse a decade (2000-2010) of advection patterns of marine plastic litter, modeled as Lagrangian particles and released from the three major sources: untreated waste along coasts, plastic discharged from rivers and along maritime shipping routes. Risk of exposure to microplastics via food ingestion for fin whales is then evaluated by interlacing the plastic litter distribution obtained via particle tracking with maps of habitat suitability based on bathymetry and satellite-derived estimates of chlorophyll-a. Our modeling results locate the highest risk values in the Central Ligurian Sea, and show that all the three main sources of plastic litter taken into account clearly contribute to impacting cetaceans in the Sanctuary, yet with spatial and interannual variability of patterns. The procedure formalized with our approach can be extended to assess the risk caused by ingestion of plastics by other taxa and/or in other MPAs, as we suggest by providing an application on the whole ecosystem of Pelagos, thus informing targeted actions to tackle the complex issue of marine litter.

Modeling Plastics Exposure for the Marine Biota: Risk Maps for Fin Whales in the Pelagos Sanctuary (North-Western Mediterranean)

Guerrini, Federica;Mari, Lorenzo;Casagrandi, Renato
2019

Abstract

Several anthropogenic stressors threaten the Mediterranean basin, which is currently regarded as one of the most impacted marine ecoregions globally. Among those stressors, marine plastic litter is causing increasing concern about its environmental and biological consequences, the latter being largely unknown. To improve the understanding of these aspects, here we provide a mapped indicator of the risk of plastic ingestion by the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, an endangered cetacean whose feeding grounds are located within the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, in the north-western Mediterranean Sea. We analyse a decade (2000-2010) of advection patterns of marine plastic litter, modeled as Lagrangian particles and released from the three major sources: untreated waste along coasts, plastic discharged from rivers and along maritime shipping routes. Risk of exposure to microplastics via food ingestion for fin whales is then evaluated by interlacing the plastic litter distribution obtained via particle tracking with maps of habitat suitability based on bathymetry and satellite-derived estimates of chlorophyll-a. Our modeling results locate the highest risk values in the Central Ligurian Sea, and show that all the three main sources of plastic litter taken into account clearly contribute to impacting cetaceans in the Sanctuary, yet with spatial and interannual variability of patterns. The procedure formalized with our approach can be extended to assess the risk caused by ingestion of plastics by other taxa and/or in other MPAs, as we suggest by providing an application on the whole ecosystem of Pelagos, thus informing targeted actions to tackle the complex issue of marine litter.
plastic pollution; oceanographic modeling; Mediterranean Sea; risk assessment; marine biota; microplastics
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11311/1090912
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