• Marine litter research expedition in the Cabrera Archipelago National Maritime-Terrestrial Park
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The harmonized approach for monitoring marine litter in Mediterranean pelagic and coastal MPAs was tested by the Balearic Centre of Oceanography (COB)-IEO this summer, during the expedition which took place from the 29th of July to the 6th of August, in the Cabrera Archipelago National Maritime-Terrestrial Park.
The archipelago was declared a national park in 1991 compromising 10.021 hectares (1.316 ha terrestrial and 8.705 ha marine). In 2019, the marine protected area of the park was expanded to 89.396 ha (total surface of the park 90,712 ha) with a new perimeter of 82.09 Km and a bathymetric range from 0 to 2.000 m. Human activities such as sailing, anchoring and diving require authorization.
A team of six researchers from the research group IMPACT@SEA: Anthropogenic Impacts on Coastal Ecosystems from the COB-IEO, in collaboration with the staff of the Cabrera Archipelago National Maritime-Terrestrial Park, worked on monitoring marine litter in several sea compartments, from the seafloor to the sea surface, including biota.
What did we do?
This scientific expedition investigated for the first time marine litter in coastal ecosystems of this Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The main aims were to quantify and identify micro and macro litter from different sea compartments (seafloor, sea surface, water column and beaches) and biota, by testing the sampling protocols developed within the Plastic Busters MPAs project. The results will help diagnose the impacts of marine litter on marine habitats and biota as well as identify marine litter ‘hotspots’. Furthermore, the results will contribute to shaping up a common framework of marine litter actions and thus ensure the preservation of natural ecosystems across the Mediterranean basin.
The sampling campaign was carried out at the main island of Cabrera and the study areas were selected on the basis of the type of survey performed, the results of the marine litter forecasting model developed for the islands and the orientation of the shoreline.
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Five types of surveys were carried out in this campaign:
Marine litter on the sea surface
Floating micro-litter was surveyed by performing manta trawls on the sea surface. The manta trawl is an oceanographic tool, similar to a plankton net used to collect zooplankton, and it is trawled from the boat skimming the sea surface. By doing this, the manta trawl captures small particles of litter, mainly microplastics.
Marine litter on the seafloor
In shallow coastal waters, seafloor marine litter was quantified by means of scuba divers.
The divers collected the litter items found on the studied transect of the seafloor and quantified and classified them ashore.
Marine litter in the water column
Simultaneously to surveying marine litter on the seafloor, marine litter was sampled from the water column. To this end, the scuba divers used a hand-held trawling net to collect floating micro-litter in the hyper-benthos.
Marine litter on beaches
Micro- and macro litter was surveyed in sandy and rocky beaches located in the islands of the archipelago of Cabrera to assess the accumulation litter and understand the transport patterns of litter to Cabrera.
Marine litter in biota
Several taxonomic groups including invertebrates (mussels, sea urchins and sea cucumbers), as well as hyperbenthic organisms and fish, have been sampled to assess litter ingestion and potential physiological effects.
The scientific expedition in numbers has been as follows:
-22 dives for seafloor macro-litter sampling
-6 dives for hyperbenthos sampling (12 hyperbenthos samples)
-36 sediment samples for micro-litter analyzis
-30 sea surface manta trawls for micro-litter sampling
-104 biota organisms sampled for litter ingestion analyzes (ingestion, biomarkers, Phatalates, contaminants, stable isotopes, reactive oxygen species) from 3 sampling locations with a total of 399 samples (44 mussels, 145 holothurians and sea urchin and 210 fish).
44 mussels (Mytilus edulis)
15 holothurians (Holothuria forskali , Holothuria tubulosa and Holothuria poli)
15 sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacea lixivus)
30 fish (Serranus scriba and Oblada melanura)
As scheduled in the project, samples will be now processed at the COB-IEO laboratory and other laboratories within the Plastic Busters MPAs consortium.
-5 coastal beach macro-litter surveys
-29 beach sediment samples