Ecological impacts of marine plastic debris

Our articles and data visualizations rely on work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the underlying data sources. This entry can be cited as:

Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) - "Ecological impacts of marine plastic debris". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/ecological-impacts-of-marine-plastic-debris' [Online Resource]

The table below provides a summary of peer-reviewed evidence of marine plastic impact on animal life based on analysis by Rocham et al. (2016).1 The review is based on publications through the year 2013. This data is also presented in the review by Law (2017).2

MF is an abbreviation for monofilament line.

StudyAnimalEncounter typePredominant debris typeImpact (response)
Allen et al. 2012Grey sealsEntanglementMF line, net, ropeConstriction
Beck & Barros, 1991ManateesEntanglementMF line, bags, other debrisDeath
Campagna et al. 2007Elephant sealsEntanglementMF line, fishing jigsDermal wound
Croxall et al. 1990Fur sealsEntanglementPacking band, fishing gear, other debrisDermal wound
Dau et al. 2009Seabirds, pinnipedsEntanglementFishing gearExternal wound
Fowler 1987Fur sealsEntanglementTrawl netting, packing bandsDeath
Fowler 1987 (correlative evidence only)Fur sealsEntanglementTrawl netting, packing bandsReduced population size
Good et al. 2010Invertebrates, fish, seabirds, marine mammalsEntanglementDerelict gillnetsDeath
Moore et al. 2009Seabirds, marine mammalsEntanglementPlastic, fishing lineDeath
Pham et al. 2013GorgoniansEntanglementFishing lineDamage/breakage
Velez-Rubio et al. 2013Sea turtlesEntanglementFishing gearDeath
Winn et al. 2008WhalesEntanglementPlastic lineDermal wound
Woodward et al. 2006WhalesEntanglementPlastic lineDermal wound
Beck & Barros 1991ManateesIngestionMF line, bags, other debrisDeath
Bjorndal et al. 1994Sea turtlesIngestionMF line, fish hooks, other debrisIntestinal blockage, death
Brandao et al. 2011PenguinsIngestionPlastic, fishing gear, other debris
Browne et al. 2013Lugworms (laboratory)IngestionMicroplasticsBiochemical/cellular, death
Bugoni et al. 2001Sea turtlesIngestionPlastic bags, ropesGut obstruction, death
Carey 2011SeabirdsIngestionPlastic particles, pelletsPerforated gut
Cedervall et al. 2012Fish (laboratory)IngestionNanoparticlesBiochemical/cellular
Connors & Smith 1982 (correlative evidence only)SeabirdsIngestionPlastic pellets, foamBiochemical/cellular
Dau et al. 2009Seabirds, pinnipedsIngestionFishing hooksInternal wound
de Stephanis et al. 2013Sperm whaleIngestionIdentifiable litter itemsGastric rupture, death
Fry et al. 1987SeabirdsIngestionPlastic fragments, pellets, identifiable litterGut impaction, ulcerative lesions
Jacobsen et al. 2010Sperm whalesIngestionFishing gear, other debrisGastric rupture, gut impaction, death
Lee et al. 2013Copepods (laboratory)IngestionMicro- and nanoplasticsDeath
Oliveira et al. 2013Fish (laboratory)IngestionMicroplasticsBiochemical/cellular
Rochman et al. 2013a-cFish (laboratory)IngestionMicroplasticsBiochemical/cellular
Ryan 1988Birds (laboratory)IngestionMicroplasticsReduced organ size
Velez-Rubio et al. 2013Sea turtlesIngestionMarine debrisGut obstruction
Wright et al. 2013Lugworms (laboratory)IngestionMicroplasticsBiochemical/cellular
Von Moos et al. 2012Mussels (laboratory)Ingestion and gill uptakeMicroplasticsBiochemical/cellular
Katsanevakis et al. 2007Epibenthic megafaunaInteraction (contact)Plastic bottles, glass jarsAltered assemblage
Lewis et al. 2009Sessile invertebrates (coral reef)Interaction (contact)Lobster trapsAltered assemblage
Uneputty & Evans 1997 (correlative evidence only)Assemblage on sedimentInteraction (contact)Plastic litterAltered assemblage
Chiappone et al. 2002Sessile invertebrates (coral reef)Interaction (contact)MF line, lobster trap, hook and line gearTissue abrasion
Chiappone et al. 2005Sessile invertebrates (coral reef)Interaction (contact)Hook and line gearTissue abrasion
Uhrin & Schellinger 2011SeagrassInteraction (contact)Crab pots, tires, woodBreakage, suffocation, death
Ozdilek et al. 2006 (correlative evidence only)Sea turtlesInteraction (obstruction)Waste, medical wasteReduced population size
Widmer & Hennemann 2010 (correlative evidence only)Ghost crabsInteraction (obstruction)Beach litter, mostly plasticReduced population size
Widmer & Hennemann 2010 (correlative evidence only)Ghost crabsInteraction (substrate)Beach litter, mostly plasticAltered assemblage
Goldstein et al. 2012 (correlative evidence only)Marine insectsInteraction (substrate)MicroplasticsIncreased population size