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RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS
Teams of academics and other partners are leading marine debris research that answers questions about marine debris types, impacts, and solutions in the Mid-Atlantic. Research papers, reports, and other technical publications are available below.
Marine Debris Content Portlet
Materevovle California Microfiber Update: Textile Perspective
This report summarizes the issues and ideas presented by the speakers and participants at the California Microfiber Workshop. The solutions presented cover a range of techniques and ideas that were discussed during the workshop. The themes and questions that were asked by multiple stakeholders have been described and represent the opinions expressed by workshop participants, and not necessarily the authors or funders of this report.
The Economic Impacts of Marine Debris on Tourism-Dependent Communities Infographic
Microplastic transfer from the American horseshoe crab to shorebirds through consumption of horseshoe crab eggs in Jamaica Bay, NY
Microplastic transfer between horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) and migratory shorebirds through consumption of crab eggs was examined in Jamaica Bay, New York. Fertilized and unfertilized crab eggs, shorebird fecal pellets, beach sand, and bay water were processed with a hydrogen peroxide solution to remove organic material, then stained with a Nile Red to identify microplastics using fluorescence microscopy. Microplastics were present in all samples and ranged from approximately26–1300 μm. Unfertilized and fertilized eggs contained significantly higher numbers of microplastic particles per gram than shorebird fecal pellets, beach sand, and bay water. The presence of microplastics in unfertilized egg samples indicates that microplastics undergo maternal transfer during oogenesis. We estimated that 1 g of horseshoe crab eggs could contain approximately 426 to 840 microplastic particles, suggesting that shorebirds feeding on this resource could be ingesting a substantial burden of microplastics during their migratory stopover, much of which appears to be retained by shorebirds, rather than being eliminated in their fecal pellets. Access the journal article here.
Curbside Disposal Education Campaign Pilot - Case Study
The Curbside Disposal Education Campaign Pilot took place from July 2020 to May 2021 and was rolled out in Washington, D.C., through a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency’s Trash Free Waters Program and the local District government, including the D.C. Mayor’s Office of the Clean City, D.C. Department of Public Works, and D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. The primary goal of this initiative was to educate residents about proper waste containment and encourage behavioral changes to reduce unintentional leakage associated with curbside municipal trash collection.
Litter Assessment Along the Delaware River: Citizen Science Progress Report
In 2015, Clean Ocean Action (COA) launched the Reduce Litter in the Delaware River project to determine why, and to reduce sources. This report summarizes the results of the initial phases of the project which identified hot spot areas and assessed accumulation.
Microplastics exacerbate virus-mediated mortality in fish
Abstract: Microplastics are a persistent and increasing environmental hazard. They have been reported to interact with a variety of biotic and abiotic environmental stressors, but the ramifications of such interactions are largely unknown. We investigated virus-induced mortalities in a commercially important salmonid following exposure to microplastics, plastic microfibers, and natural (non-plastic) microparticles. Microplastics or microparticles alone were not lethal. Mortality increased significantly when fish were co-exposed to virus and microplastics, particularly microfibers, compared to virus alone. This presents the unique finding that microplastics (not natural microparticulate matter) may have a significant impact on population health when presented with another stressor. Further, we found that mortality correlated with host viral load, mild gill inflammation, immune responses, and transmission potential. We hypothesize that microplastics can compromise host tissues, allowing pathogens to bypass defenses. Further research regarding this mechanism and the interplay between microplastics and infectious disease are paramount, considering microplastics increasing environmental burden. Access the full article here.
Monitoring Marine Debris in Virginia’s Coastal Zone Project Report: April 2014 through June 2018
For a little more than four years (April 2014 through June 2018), a project team led by the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and its partners conducted monthly monitoring of marine debris on four coastal beaches in Virginia. The monitoring team conducted 54 surveys on Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach; 51 surveys on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Accomack County; 50 surveys on Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge in Northampton County, and 52 surveys on Grandview Nature Preserve in Hampton. This report summarizes their findings.
Preferences for derelict gear mitigation strategies by commercial fishers
Local, national, and international efforts to address the issue of derelict fishing gear are often limited by resources and costs. Managers and policymakers have implemented various preventative, impact reducing, and curative measures to decrease derelict fishing gear abundance and impacts, but stakeholder support is essential for success. To identify stakeholder preferences and the most efficient measures to address the issue of derelict blue crab pots in Chesapeake Bay, we distributed a stated preference survey with a discrete choice experiment to 1,032 licensed commercial fishers in Virginia and received a 42% response rate. Read the full article here.
Virginia Abandoned and Derelict Workgroup Report - 2022
This report covers research from 2021-2022 and recommendations to address abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) in Virginia’s waterways. The report summarizes the discussions of the Virginia ADV Work Group comprised of federal, state and industry representatives. The report has been reviewed and approved by state natural resource agency leadership.
Ecological and Economic Effects of Derelict Fishing Gear in the Chesapeake Bay
To assess the ecological and economic impacts of derelict blue crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay, a diverse team of researchers from CSS-Dynamac, Inc.; Versar, Inc.; the Virginia Institute of Marine Science; and Global Science & Technology, Inc. recently completed a comprehensive Bay-wide assessment as part of a project funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. In addition to the Chesapeake Bay assessment, the team also created a Guiding Framework for derelict fishing gear assessments, which can be applied to other fisheries and/or regions interested in conducting similar studies. Both documents can be found on this page.
The Effects of Marine Debris on Beach Recreation and Regional Economies in Four Coastal Communities: A Regional Pilot Study Final Report
The goal of this study was to better understand the economic effects of changes in the amount of debris on beaches. The results may help federal, state, and local agencies structure future debris abatement and mitigation projects to maximize social benefits provided by coastal resources. To address these goals, we collected data from four coastal areas in the United States: Gulf Coast beaches in Alabama, Atlantic Ocean beaches in Delaware and Maryland, Lake Erie beaches in Ohio, and Pacific Ocean beaches in Orange County, California. Access the report here.
Abandoned and Derelict Vessels in the Commonwealth - How to Improve Virginia's ADV Program
This paper examines the current Virginia ADV program and considers how it can be amended to make it more effective. It then identifies policies from other states’ ADV programs and recommends how some of these policies can be implemented in Virginia to improve its ADV program.
Isolating Microplastics from Biofilm Communities: Connecting Project-Based Learning & Research
A journal article in The American Biology Teacher which describes the protocol developed for high school teachers to educate students about microplastics and how to successfully isolate and observe them. Teachers and students in Maryland successfully isolated microplastics from biofilm samples from the Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, and shared their results. International teachers and students in Barcelona, Spain, involved in a related project, had similar results and shared experiences through images, video, and online meetings. These collaborations provide important opportunities for student-driven inquiry and for them to engage in methods of current scientific research. Access the article here.
Microplastics affect sedimentary microbial communities and nitrogen cycling
Microplastics are ubiquitous in estuarine, coastal, and deep sea sediments. The impacts of microplastics on sedimentary microbial ecosystems and biogeochemical carbon and nitrogen cycles, however, have not been well reported. To evaluate if microplastics influence the composition and function of sedimentary microbial communities, we conducted a microcosm experiment using salt marsh sediment amended with polyethylene (PE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane foam (PUF) or polylactic acid (PLA) microplastics. We report that the presence of microplastics alters sediment microbial community composition and nitrogen cycling processes. Compared to control sediments without microplastic, PUF- and PLA-amended sediments promote nitrification and denitrification, while PVC amendment inhibits both processes. These results indicate that nitrogen cycling processes in sediments can be significantly affected by different microplastics, which may serve as organic carbon substrates for microbial communities. Considering this evidence and increasing microplastic pollution, the impact of plastics on global ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling merits critical investigation. Read the full article here.
Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed: State of the Knowledge, Data Gaps, and Relationship to Management Goals
Summary report of a two-day workshop convened by the Chesapeake Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, to identify current knowledge of microplastic pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and potential policy implications. The summary report includes several recommended actions which were presented to the Chesapeake Bay Program for consideration.
Plastic Pollution and the Chesapeake Bay: The Food System and Beyond
The abundance of microplastics in the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay has been linked to the population density of the surrounding area. Importantly, both large plastic debris items and microplastics threaten marine organisms through ingestion or entanglement. Another threat may accompany the plastic; the surface of the debris may carry sorbed chemical contaminants or pathogens that harm aquatic life. Some plastic polymers also contain chemical additives. These additives may be toxic to aquatic organisms and concentrate at higher trophic levels of the food chain. These phenomena are still being explored by researchers. At present, there is inadequate research detailing the distribution of plastics in the Chesapeake Bay. We explore here the plastic pollution issue, how it may impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and possible solutions, with particular attention to food system packaging. Read the full article here.
Protecting Terrapins with TEDs in Virginia - Lessons From Other States
This paper highlights case studies about other states' efforts to require or incentivize the use of TEDs and recommends policies for Virginia to adopt that have proven successful elsewhere. First, it outlines the threats to terrapins at large, as well as the threat posed by commercial and recreational crabbing, specifically. Next, it details the efforts that other East Coast states have made to combat the problem, including policies that require or incentivize the use of TEDs on crab pots, and discusses the regulatory framework currently in place in Virginia. Finally, this paper concludes by analyzing the approaches taken by other states and recommending specific policies that Virginia can pursue to reduce the deaths terrapins face from crab pots.