Research conducted at IHCantabria provides new scientific evidence to quantify the threat of plastic debris in marine and coastal ecosystems

by | 22 May, 2023 | General News, Oceanography, Estuaries and Water Quality | 0 comments

A paper published by IHCantabria researchers in collaboration with the University of Rome III and the University of Genoa presents results with important implications for the management of plastic debris in coastal environments.

Plastic debris is a major threat to ecosystems. Specifically, the relevant role of waves in the transport and dispersion of plastic debris in coastal environments is well known. The results of the research led by Paula Núñez, a researcher at IHCantabria, shed light on this issue, thanks to the “Margarita Salas” postdoctoral fellowship granted by the “Vicerrectorado de Investigación y Política Científica” of the Universidad de Cantabria (UC). This aid is part of the “Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan” and has been financed by the Ministry of Universities and the European Union, through the NextGenerationEU funds.

In a recent paper published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, Núñez and the rest of the authors, associated with IHCantabria (Spain), the University of Rome III, and the University of Genoa (the last two in Italy), describe a new set of laboratory experiments to evaluate the influence of waves and wave-induced currents on the input rates (from the coast to the sea) and transport rates of plastic debris of different characteristics (density, size and shape). These experiments were carried out in the wave flume of the “Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos” of the UC.

Thanks to this research, it is known that long-period waves can introduce a greater amount of plastic debris into the ocean. It is also now known that non-buoyant debris is transported to the wave breaking zone where it remains trapped, while buoyant debris tends to accumulate near the shore.

This research allows us to better understand where plastic pollution may be concentrated in coastal areas, helping to develop effective strategies to reduce and clean up coastal pollution.

The postdoctoral fellowship “Margarita Salas” received by the researcher Paula Núñez is financed by the Ministry of Universities and the Plan for Recovery, Transformation and Resilience of Spain, through the NextGenerationEU funds of the European Union, based on a call from the UC. It also has the financial support of the Government of Cantabria, through the FÉNIX Program.

The authors of the research paper are Paula Núñez, Alessandro Romano, Javier García-Alba, Giovanni Besio, and Raúl Medina. The paper is entitled “Wave-induced cross-shore distribution of different densities, shapes and sizes of plastic debris in coastal environments: A laboratory experiment”. Read more about the paper: