The Plastic Busters MPAs expedition in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park

During the period 8-23 July 2019, five project partners – the University of Siena, ISPRA, National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, IFREMER and the Corsican Agency for the Environment– joined forces for a sampling campaign within the area of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. The campaign was carried out aboard the ISPRA research vessel Astrea and areas in the vicinity of the seven islands of the archipelago (Gorgona, Capraia, Elba, Pianosa, Montecristo, Giglio, Giannutri) as well as the north-east of Corsica were investigated, covering a total of 1,080 nautical miles.

Transects were carried out to monitor the floating micro- and macro-litter around the islands of the archipelago, following a route to surround each island and investigate the possible influence of proximity-to-coast on the presence and accumulation of marine litter. The campaign team carried out a total of six transects for small islands (Gorgona, Montecristo, Giannutri), eight transects for medium-sized islands (Capraia, Pianosa, Giglio), 12 transects for Elba Island – the largest of all the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago – and eight transects of 10 miles each for the marine area in front of north-eastern Corsica. Additionally, nine transects were analysed during the transfers between the Tuscan Islands and those between the archipelago and Corsica.

Overall, 71 floating microlitter manta trawl surveys and 131 floating macrolitter surveys were carried out, which will be used – once back in the laboratory – to assess the concentrations and distribution of floating marine litter.

Outcomes of the project’s predictive model of marine litter distribution turned out to coincide with the observations in the field, revealing that the areas with the highest accumulation of floating marine litter are those between north-east Corsica, the islands of Gorgona and Capraia, and the area between the islands of Capraia and Elba.

Samples collected:

-bioindicator species were also collected to assess the effects of marine litter on marine organisms:

-19 pools of isopods and 120 mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) were collected as water column indicators from three islands of the archipelago

-79 bogues (Boops boops), 50 anchovies (Engraulis encrasicolus), 53 sardines (Sardina pilchardus) and 80 red mullets (Mullus barbatus) were collected at harbouring sites

-project target species (seabirds, large pelagic fish and cetaceans) monitored to assess the effects of marine litter on biodiversity, especially on endangered species. To this end, skin biopsies from:

- 7 fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were collected near Elba Island

-4 striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) were collected off the island of Montecristo

For further information about the expedition, see: https://bit.ly/2MCRMNL