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The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Miguel Morales Maqueda



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Marine plastic debris floating on the ocean surface is a major environmental problem. However, itsdistribution in the ocean is poorly mapped, and most of the plastic waste estimated to have entered theocean from land is unaccounted for. Better understanding of how plastic debris is transported fromcoastal and marine sources is crucial to quantify and close the global inventory of marine plastics,which in turn represents critical information for mitigation or policy strategies. At the same time,plastic is a unique tracer that provides an opportunity to learn more about the physics and dynamics ofour ocean across multiple scales, from the Ekman convergence in basin-scale gyres to individual wavesin the surfzone. In this review, we comprehensively discuss what is known about the differentprocesses that govern the transport of floating marine plastic debris in both the open ocean and thecoastal zones, based on the published literature and referring to insights from neighbouring fields suchas oil spill dispersion, marine safety recovery, plankton connectivity, and others. We discuss howmeasurements of marine plastics (both in situ and in the laboratory), remote sensing, and numericalsimulations can elucidate these processes and their interactions across spatio-temporal scales.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van Sebille E, Aliani S, Lavender-Law K, Maximemko N, Alsina JM, Bagaev A, Bergmann M, Chapron B, Chubarenko I, Cozar A, Delandmeter P, Egger M, Fox-Kemper B, Garaba SP, Goddijn-Murphy L, Hardesty BD, Hoffman MJ, Isobe A, Jongedijk CO, Kaandorp ML, Khatmulilna L, Koelmans AE, Kukulka T, Lautkoetter C, Lebreton L, Lobelle D, Maes C, Martinez-Vicente V, Morales Maqueda MA, Poulain-Zarcos M, Rodriguez E, Ryan PG, Shanks AL, Shim WJ, Suaria G, Thiel M, van den Bremer TS, Wichmann D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Research Letters

Year: 2020

Volume: 15

Print publication date: 17/02/2020

Online publication date: 20/01/2020

Acceptance date: 20/01/2020

Date deposited: 10/03/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1748-9326

Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab6d7d


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