Lagrangian transport of marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea

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Abstract

Concern about marine litter has been rising in the last decades, triggered by the discovery of the great mid-ocean garbage patches. The Mediterranean Sea is strongly affected by the presence of floating litter, as it has a very high amount of waste generated annually per person that eventually ends up in its waters, with plastic objects accounting for a large percentage of all manmade debris. In principle, the basin looks very vulnerable to possible accumulation of floating debris, since its dynamics is characterized by an inward surface flow of water from the Atlantic hampering surface floating items from being flushed out. Yet, no evidence of permanent litter accumulation areas has been reported so far in the Mediterranean. In this paper we utilized the largest available set of historical Lagrangian data gathered in the Mediterranean Sea to estimate the probability of debris particles to reach different subareas of the basin, with the main objective of singling out possible retention areas. Climatological reconstructions of the time evolution of litter distribution in the basin carried out on the basis of observed Lagrangian displacements suggest a general tendency of floating matter to collect in the southern portion of the basin, and in particular a long term accumulation in the southern and southeastern Levantine basin, areas not yet sampled by marine litter observation campaigns, whose targeted organization we strongly recommend at the end of this paper.

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Zambianchi, E., Trani, M., & Falco, P. (2017). Lagrangian transport of marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 5(FEB). https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2017.00005

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