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M Eriksen, LC Lebreton, HS Carson, M Thiel, CJ Moore, JC Borerro, F Galgani, PG Ryan and J Reisser
Abstract
Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007-2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (Nā€Š=ā€Š680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (Nā€Š=ā€Š891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.
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Concepts
Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Oceanography, Marine debris, Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Sea, Ocean
MeSH headings
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