Spatial distribution of plastic pollution in a protected coastal Mediterranean wetland

, Cesarini Giulia, Cera Alessandra, Battisti Corrado, Scalici Massimiliano.

Plastic litter was widespread worldwide, and in particular in the Mediterranean Sea, which is one of the most impacted areas. Coastal ecosystems, that provide several ecosystem services, are the most vulnerable marine habitats threated by plastic litter can derive from both sea and land. Although there are different management measures of marine litter, plastic pollution has impacted even the Marine Protected Areas. To deepen this topic, our research focused on plastic distribution in a protected costal area, ‘Torre Flavia Wetland'. We also evaluated whether there was a correlation between the accumulation of plastic and natural debris. We collected plastic or natural items in 16 sampling sites of two transepts located in different areas of beach. Our results highlight plastic contamination in the study area, identifying the possible sources of different plastic deposition. A highest concentration of plastic is observed near the river mouth and breakwater, but overall microplastics is the most abundant size category of plastic litter found. The same factors seem influenced also the deposition of natural debris as there is a positive correlation between the weight of plastic and natural debris. Moreover, we observe a selection of plastic shapes, in the beach more fragments are found while the egagropiles (spheroids of Posidonia oceanica) entrapped more fibres. The plastic presence in the beach of ‘Torre Flavia Wetland' generate concerns on local fauna and ecosystem conservation, reducing moreover the aesthetic and economic value. In addition, egagropiles are a source of food and shelter for different organisms. It is therefore necessary to carry out clean-up beach actions, considering however the greater effort required for the removal of microplastics compared to larger items. Voluntary actions as citizen science projects can provide a valid support to increase the management of plastic litter.

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