On a Mediterranean route
We all know that plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea puts in a considerable risk to ecosystems and human health, and causes negative economic impacts on coastal communities. But do you know how these plastics move on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea and which is their final destination?
In a study carried out in the framework of the AMAre project by researchers from the Euro-Mediterranean Climate Change Centre (CMCC), more than 10,000 million virtual particles have been tracked to understand the transport and destination of plastic waste in the Mediterranean, from anthropogenic sources (coastal populations, rivers and shipping routes) to environmental destinations (sea surface, coasts and seabed).
The movements of plastic particles on the sea surface have been defined thanks to data provided by the Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service (CMEMS). A joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Space Agency, the CMEMS uses Sentinel satellites to observe the environment and better understand environmental changes.
Thanks to this study, it has been concluded that the residence time of plastics on the sea surface depends on their origin: terrestrial plastics, coming from coastal and river populations, reside for 7 days on the sea surface; while plastics coming from sea routes have an average residence time of 80 days. This fact allows us to define the Mediterranean as a system that dissipates floating plastics. It is unlikely that accumulations of plastics will occur on the surface over a long period of time, as is the case in areas of the Atlantic, Indian or Pacific Oceans.
So, where do plastics accumulate?
Plastics accumulate mainly on the coast and in the seabed. In this sense, the study has concluded that the most plastic-polluted areas are the Cilician sub-basin in Turkey, the Catalan coast in Spain, the Po River delta and the Venice lagoon in Italy. In contrast, the Aegean Sea and the costs of the Balkans have been identified as low contaminated areas.
Link to the scientific article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X18301000#!
Link to Copernicus Service: https://marine.copernicus.eu/