From: Alfred Wegener Institute - Helmholtz Centre For Polar and Marine Research
Published March 27, 2017 01:06 PM

Litter is present throughout the world's oceans: 1,220 species affected

Where is marine litter concentrated, and which species and ecosystems does it affect? Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute have for the first time compiled all scientific data published on marine litter in a single, comprehensive database, now accessible from the online portal AWI Litterbase (www.litterbase.org). Here, both the distribution of litter and its interactions with organisms are presented in global maps. In addition, the regularly updated datasets are fed into graphic analyses, which show e.g. that seabirds and fish are particularly affected by litter. The latest interaction analysis shows that 34 per cent of the species monitored ingest litter, 31 per cent colonise it, and 30 per cent get entangled or otherwise trapped in it (for all figures: valid as of 23 March 2017). The total number of affected species is rising steadily and is currently at 1,220 – more than twice the number reported in the last review article. These numbers will change as the database is being updated regularly.

“In AWI Litterbase we’ve for the first time analysed all groups of organisms, which were studied in connection with litter, and presented in map form,” says Dr Melanie Bergmann from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). The biologist has been researching deep-sea litter for several years, and developed the AWI Litterbase together with her colleagues Dr Lars Gutow and Mine Tekman. The team’s motivation: previous compilations of scientific data never included all datasets, because there were too many differences in the methods applied by the various research groups. “Our global maps also show data in different units. However, we intentionally designed Litterbase with this feature, since it allows users to filter results by type of unit. In this way, values using the same unit can easily be compared –for the first time, for litter in different regions and ecosystems,” explains Lars Gutow, highlighting one of the database’s central features. “At the same time, Litterbase is also of tremendous scientific value. Our database will allow us to assess and better understand the global quantities and distribution patterns of litter in the ocean.”

Read more at Alfred Wegener Institute - Helmholtz Centre For Polar and Marine Research

Photo: Plastic bag at the HAUSGARTEN, the deepsea observatory of the Alfred Wegener Institute in the Fram Strait. This image was taken by the OFOS camera system in a depth of 2500 m. (Credits: Melanie Bergmann, OFOS)

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