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Factors (type, colour, density, and shape) determining the removal of marine plastic debris by seabirds from the South Pacific Ocean: Is there a pattern?

Hidalgo-Ruz, Valeria; Luna-Jorquera, Guillermo; Eriksen, Marcus; Frick, Hanna; Miranda-Urbina, Diego; Portflitt-Toro, Matias; Rivadeneira, Marcelo M.; Robertson, Christopher J.R.; Scofiels, R. Paul; Serratosa, Juan; Suazo, Cristián G. and Thiel, Martin (2020) Factors (type, colour, density, and shape) determining the removal of marine plastic debris by seabirds from the South Pacific Ocean: Is there a pattern? Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, online, xx.

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Document available online at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.3453


1. While floating near the sea surface plastic debris interacts with a number of external factors, including many different organisms. Seabirds have the most extensive documented history of interactions with plastics, through ingestion, entanglement, and nest construction.
2. In the present study, eight seabird species from the South Pacific Ocean were used as a proxy to determine potential patterns of removal of marine plastic debris, and three hypotheses were tested in relation to their feeding habits and nesting areas.
3. Plastics from abiotic compartments (Chilean continental coast, South Pacific Gyre, and Rapa Nui beaches) and biotic compartments (surface‐feeding seabirds, diving seabirds, and nesting areas) were compared, according to their type, colour, shape, and density.
4. Continental beaches had a relatively wide range of colours and shapes, with many non‐buoyant plastics. Samples from the South Pacific Gyre (SPG) and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) beaches comprised mainly hard, rounded, buoyant, and white/grey plastics.
5. These results indicate that the composition of floating plastics from terrestrial sources changes during transport with oceanic currents, reducing the proportion of prey‐like plastics present in the subtropical gyres.
6. The stomach contents of surface‐feeding and diving seabirds were dominated by hard, white/grey, and round plastic items, similar to plastics from the SPG, suggesting non‐selective (accidental or secondary) ingestion.
7. Nesting areas had a more variable composition of brightly coloured plastics, suggesting a pattern of selective removal of plastics by seabirds, probably from oceanic sources.
8. The present study reveals extensive interactions of seabirds with plastics on a broader scale, which is highly relevant given that the impacts of plastics on seabirds are increasing worldwide, compromising their efficient conservation.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:buoyancy, marine plastics, plastic colour, plastic shape, specific density
Agrovoc keywords:
marine ecosystems
Subjects: Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Nature conservation
Deposited By: Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau, FiBL
ID Code:39233
Deposited On:12 Feb 2021 13:54
Last Modified:12 Feb 2021 13:55
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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