Microplastics in coastal California
Millions of tons of plastic debris are added to marine ecosystems annually and microplastic pollution is an emerging concern in these systems due to the durability of plastics, their propensity to attract other pollutants, and tendency to degrade into ingestible micro-plastics (particles or fibers <5mm). Sandy beaches accumulate ocean litter, exposing their invertebrate fauna to the hazard of debris ingestion and additional risk transfer of pollutants into the food web.
We assessed the distribution of microplastics in beach sediments and examined the rate of ingestion by filter-feeding beach infauna along 900 km of the California coast. Microplastics were ubiquitous in beach sediments and commonly found in the gut of filter-feeding Pacific mole crab (Emerita analoga) and occasionally found in the planktivorous blacksmith fish (Chromis punctipinnis). Plastic debris was also found in the gut of the barred surfperch (Amphistichus argenteus), which is a predator of Pacific mole crabs. Consumption by beach organisms provide a clear exposure pathway for plastic and adsorbed pollutants to enter marine and coastal food webs.
Fishing debris monitoring and removal
An interdisciplinary group of CI faculty, staff and students are participating in a NOAA marine-debris program funded project to monitor the ecological effects of fishing debris removal at 7 sites in Channel Islands National Park and 2 mainland sites.
Recent press on sandy beaches, microplastics and the Refugio oil spill:
Ventura County Star Feb. 11, 2018 by Claudia Boyd-Barrett
Plastic invasion: CSUCI researchers find microplastics have begun to infiltrate local ocean ecosystems
Ventura County Reporter Feb 4, 2016 by Chris O’Neal
Ventura County Star Oct. 26, 2015 by Cheri Carlson
Ventura County Star May 23, 2015 By Megan Diskin
Summer Research Institute Students sampling sandy beach infauna. ESRM’s SRI Team at Ormond Beach.