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News Archive » Marine ecosystems

Here you will find all Science for Environment Policy publications, organised by topic.

Browse archives by year and theme below.

New use of satellite data reveals the accelerating pace of glacier shrinkage this century

Around the world, shrinking glaciers are contributing to rising sea levels, affecting water cycles and intensifying natural hazards. Lack of detailed observations has hindered accurate knowledge of changes in their size, however. A new study harnesses satellite imaging to reveal changes in all Earth's glaciers from 2000–2019, estimating that they lost an average 267 gigatonnes (Gt) of mass per year, equivalent to 21% of observed sea-level rise during this period.

Seagrass meadows policy recommendations for protection from shellfishing activities

Intertidal seagrasses (i.e. those living between the low- and high-water tide marks) are of high ecological and economic value, yet human pressures such as fishing for shell and leisure walking may have reduced their distribution globally1. In this study, researchers quantified the impact of shellfishing2 activities on seagrass meadows in the Oka estuary (Basque Country, northern Spain). The research highlights the risk that trampling and digging pose to seagrasses and proposes measures for their future conservation.

Increasing levels of toxic metals in coastal sediments highlight the need — in the context of the developing blue economy — to address hidden sources of these contaminants

Regulation and improved waste treatment have reduced marine pollution; however, some contaminants persist in coastal sediments. An analysis of data on UK sediments has shown that concentrations of some, including copper and nickel, are rising. Identifying the hidden sources, such as shipping, say the researchers, is critical for maintaining healthy seas, which underpin a growing blue economy.

Extreme coastal water levels will increase considerably due to climate change, posing an increasing threat of coastal floods due to ‘overtopping’ — a cause of flooding

Climate change and anthropogenic pressures are widely expected to exacerbate hazards such as coastal flooding. One process that could contribute to this is overtopping which occurs when the extreme coastal water level exceeds the maximum elevation of the coastal system (such as dunes, dykes or cliffs). A new global analysis — using satellite-derived models of coastlines — estimates that under a high emissions scenario, the incidence of overtopping, globally, will accelerate faster than the global mean sea-level.

Measuring biodiversity loss in threatened Mediterranean coastal sand-dune habitats, Italy

Threatened Mediterranean coastal sand-dune habitats have outstanding conservation value — home to rare flora, rich in fauna and offering protection against storms. Yet there is a lack of recent comprehensive studies that survey long-term changes in these habitats. This re-surveying study quantifies functional and taxonomic changes over the last 10–15 years in a 75-kilometre (km) stretch of Italian coastal dunes. The researchers find that approximately 23% of threatened sand-dune habitats have disappeared from the surveyed area.

Ship coatings are the principal source of North Sea marine microplastics, finds study

Much discarded plastic enters our oceans via pathways such as littering, drainage, sewage systems, and mismanaged disposal, and fragments to form ‘microplastics’ — particles of under 5 millimetres (mm) in size. A study assesses the distribution, variation, composition, concentration and sources of microplastics in the German Bight. It finds different types of microplastics in coastal, central and estuarine areas, and suggests that antifouling coatings on ships are a prominent, but underestimated, source of microplastic pollution in the area.

Microplastic pollution has soared in Spanish seagrass habitats over the last 40 years

Seagrass meadows are an important coastal habitat in the Mediterranean. However, these sites are accumulating tiny particles of plastic pollution (known as microplastic particles, or MPPs). A study explores soil-core samples to establish the amount of microplastic pollution present from 1930 to the present day in several seagrass meadows along the Spanish coast, some of which are close to suspected sources of agriculture-related plastic pollution.

Can eco-engineered tiles enhance biodiversity on artificial seawalls?

A global increase in artificial seawalls has led to widespread losses of marine intertidal habitats. This habitat loss has resulted in a decline in marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in these shoreline areas. A study in Hong Kong explores whether eco-engineered tiles on artificial seawalls could enhance biodiversity.

Microplastic pollution from tyre-wear - a review of source, emissions and risk

Tyre-wear particles, which may account for a large proportion of microplastic pollution, are the focus of a recent review of studies on the environmental concentrations and impacts of non-exhaust vehicle emissions. The review finds that there is no data on the potential risk from ingestion via the food chain, and little information from either long- term monitoring, or on the particles’ ecotoxicological effects.

Biocide release from antifouling paints may be higher than reported, finds Swedish study

Researchers have evaluated the EU’s environmental risk assessment tool for antifouling paint used on leisure boats. Currently, product approval applications can report biocide release rates that have been ‘corrected’ to account for potential overestimation. However, field observations in Swedish waters suggest that these reductions are not accurate and — in order to protect marine ecosystems — should not be used.

Bioreactors and wetlands - two-step solutions could support lagoon recovery in Spain

The Mar Menor coastal saltwater lagoon, in south-east Spain, is the largest such water body in the Mediterranean basin. The lagoon is experiencing a ‘eutrophication crisis’ as excess nutrients - largely nitrates, but also phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon — are washed into the lagoon from its surroundings. A study explores the Mar Menor's nutrient inputs and evaluates the results of a two-step system including a nature-based solution (NBS); an initiative that works with and enhances nature to address societal challenges.

High levels of microplastic pollution found in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean deep sea

Marine plastic pollution has been found in the remote Antarctic peninsula and Southern Ocean since the 1980s, but microplastic pollution in this region is less well understood. To find out more about this emerging environmental hazard, scientists have analysed the deep-sea sediments of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions for the presence of microplastics.

Impact assessments for deep-sea mining should recognise possible extent of hard rock habitats

A recent sonar-sampling and photography-based survey reveals that the Atlantic deep seafloor may host more biological diversity than previously thought, due to the presence of large amounts of exposed hard rock - a type of habitat that supports a variety of marine life that is uncommon in flat, sediment-covered plains. A new research agenda focusing on these habitats could therefore help inform impact assessments for sustainable extraction of resources from the seafloor, while identifying deep-sea marine ecosystems that may be vulnerable to exploitation.

A novel approach to monitor stress in corals exposed to emerging pollutants such as UV filters

Coral reefs have been experiencing global decline attributed to human activity — including global warming, bottom trawling, overfishing and pollution. Certain UV filters, commonly found in sunscreens and cosmetics, are among the substances thought to have a potentially negative effect on corals. This study explores the effects of 10 UV filters on the coral Pocillopora damicornis under experimental conditions. The researchers identify a metabolomic ‘signature’ (i.e. a unique chemical ‘fingerprint’ created by specific cellular processes — whether in an entire organism, tissues or body cells) in corals and use this to deduce that three of the tested UV filters may trigger a coral stress response.

Extending full protection in marine protected areas can meet fishery and conservation goals

Marine fisheries provide a major source of food and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. However, many fish stocks are being overfished, with major cascading impacts on marine biodiversity. Identifying effective strategies for fishery management is, therefore, a matter of urgency. To assess stock status and sustainability, this study models three ecologically and economically important coastal fish species inside and outside Mediterranean marine protected areas (MPAs).

Seascape management: study identifies key sites for eelgrass conservation in northwest Sweden

Using eelgrass (Zostera marina) as a case study, researchers in Sweden have presented a new approach to help target conservation efforts for optimal effect. Combining insights from biophysical modelling and genetic analysis, they depict populations as an interconnected network and identify which parts of this network are most important to the survival of the regional population (and should be prioritised for protection). This approach could inform seascape management and designation of marine protected areas (MPAs) across Europe.

Sea cucumbers eat different plastic microparticles due to local habitat features

The accumulation of plastics in the marine environment is an issue of great concern, with bottom-feeding species eating plastic microparticles (MPs) they find in the sediment of their habitats. To understand what influences the entry of MPs into the marine food web, a study took samples from the vicinity of two Croatian islands, exploring the impact of MPs on a marine species: the sea cucumber.

Assessing eutrophication by mapping phosphorus circulation in the Baltic Sea

As estuaries are particularly sensitive to anthropogenic influence, assessing their ecological status is both challenging and especially important. Eutrophication is a key issue for such areas, with phosphorus (P) being a major driver of eutrophication in aquatic systems. This study explores the spatial and seasonal circulation of various forms of phosphorus in Germany’s Warnow Estuary, which flows into the Baltic Sea, to assess the levels of eutrophication in the estuary and Baltic coastal waters.

Identifying chemicals of emerging concern in the marine environment, Germany

Contamination of the marine environment is an issue of growing concern. In the EU, Member States are required to monitor contaminant levels in their marine region, and to support efforts to achieve and maintain the good environmental status of marine waters under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. A study using samples of mussels and fish has explored which chemicals of emerging concern (CEC) are relevant in the German coastal environment and identified a need for greater monitoring of emerging flame retardants and long-chain perfluoroalkyl substances in the North and Baltic Seas.

Research and policy may need to prioritise in efforts to protect biodiversity and ensure food security, finds study

To best protect ecosystems and human well-being, there is a need to prioritise how the scarce resources of time, funding and human labour should be allocated to be most effective. This study applies a prioritisation framework to 16 prominent environmental challenges in the areas of biodiversity and food security, based on three criteria: importance (scale), neglect (lack of research) and tractability (e.g. economic feasibility).

How do subsea cables affect electromagnetic-sensitive marine species?

Anthropogenic activity is changing the natural electromagnetic environment. This may impact many marine species that have adapted to use electric and magnetic cues in essential aspects of their life cycle. The installation of underwater cables in coastal and offshore waters, to support offshore generation of renewable energy and transmission networks, is increasing globally. These cables emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that can interact with natural geomagnetic EMFs, potentially disrupting cues used by electromagnetic-sensitive species. A recent interdisciplinary study explored how two such marine species, the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) and the American lobster (Homarus americanus), react in the presence of a real subsea EMF-emitting cable.

Baltic Sea tourism the effects of deteriorating environmental quality on visitor intent in Finland, Germany and Latvia

The Baltic Sea provides many ecosystem services for surrounding countries, from supporting biodiversity to providing food, inedible goods and recreational opportunity to helping to regulate our climate and atmosphere1. However, these services are being threatened by ongoing environmental degradation via coastal erosion, eutrophication, and more. This study explores how potential future changes in environmental conditions would affect the recreational benefits2 provided by the Baltic Sea, by surveying 4 800 people in Finland, Germany and Latvia on how improvement or deterioration in various environmental quality attributes would affect future visitor intent.

Mapping a threatened biotope in the German North Sea

Understanding the structure and distribution of biotopes — regions of habitat associated with a particular ecological community — is essential for marine conservation and spatial planning. An analysis of an extensive geo-referenced dataset has enabled scientists to estimate the structure, size and distribution of a threatened muddy biotope in the German North Sea, and to visualise the results in map format. This information provides a baseline for evaluating the biotope’s environmental status and contributes essential knowledge for environmental management and policy.

Chlorination of ballast water may be insufficient to minimise spread of alien species

Ballast water in ships is a principal way in which alien species are introduced into new aquatic habitats. Commercial trading ships are, therefore, required to treat their ballast water to meet discharge standards and regulation. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has approved a range of methods for ballast water treatment, such as filtration, ultraviolet radiation and chlorination. A recent study used DNA metabarcoding-based1 analyses to explore the efficacy of the most widely adopted approach — chlorination — finding that it affects zooplankton organisms unequally and may potentially even increase the chances of introduced populations becoming established in new habitats.

Mismanaged waste and tyre abrasion: scientists map key types and sources of marine plastic pollution

There is mounting global concern about marine plastic pollution and a growing focus on ways to address this environmental problem. In 2015, 9.2 megatonnes (Mt) of plastic was lost to the environment globally; in order to remedy this issue, it is essential to quantify the amounts, types and sources of plastic waste in the global environment (both geographically and within industry). This study estimates the loss of plastics to the environment across the plastic value chain, finding that mismanagement of municipal solid waste and tyre abrasion are key contributors of macro- and microplastic waste, respectively.

Routine monitoring of Mediterranean boats and marinas could help protect ecosystems from invasive alien species

A survey of over 600 private boats docked in marinas throughout the Mediterranean showed that 71% are carrying non-indigenous species. In certain cases, non-indigenous species can become ‘invasive’ and have enormous and long-lasting impacts on ecosystems. The findings suggest that a common monitoring strategy may be necessary to prevent further disruptions to natural ecosystems.

Ecological effects of deep-sea mining experiment still evident 26 years later

In 1989, researchers dragged a plough harrow across the seafloor of the Peru Basin to recreate some of the effects of deep-sea mining. Twenty-six years later, a new team of researchers returned to the site to assess whether there were any long-term ecological effects. They found that the seabed ecosystem remained disrupted, with significantly fewer suspension feeder species, such as anemones and sea sponges, than in undisturbed areas of seafloor. This suggests that deep-sea mining could cause irreversible changes to marine food webs in highly disturbed areas.

New insights into multi-century phytoplankton decline in North Atlantic predict further decline under climate change

Phytoplankton are essential to marine food webs and fisheries. However, a new study indicates that their levels have declined in the North Atlantic since the beginning of the 19th century. This coincides with weakening ocean-circulation patterns, partly caused by melting ice caps. If the melting continues, the study warns of a dramatic fall in North Atlantic plankton levels that could have cascading effects across marine food webs, reducing the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon and threatening the supply of seafood for humans.

Low oxygen levels affect reproductive function in female fish – across multiple generations

Low oxygen levels (‘hypoxia’) are a pressing concern for marine and freshwater ecosystems worldwide, and this may deteriorate as ocean temperatures rise. Hypoxia causes stress in organisms, which can cause reproductive impairments that persist across generations — even the offspring that have never been exposed to hypoxia. Previous studies discovered that hypoxia can disrupt sex hormones, resulting in birth defects and affecting reproduction of male fish over several generations. This study shows how hypoxia can also affect female marine medaka (Oryzias melastigma) over multiple generations — and thus may pose a significant threat to the sustainability of natural fish populations worldwide.

Biodegradable, oxo-degradable and compostable bags observed over three years in the sea, open air and soil

European scientists have conducted the first ever long-term study into the breakdown of alternative plastic bags compared to conventional plastic bags, across multiple habitats — open air, soil and sea. Oxo-degradable, compostable and biodegradable bags are often marketed as being recycled back into nature more quickly than normal bags; however, the long-term environmental studies to back this up are lacking and there is concern regarding microplastic pollution from these alternative plastic bags.

Wave farms could help prevent coastal erosion under future sea-level rise

As well as providing renewable energy, wave farms can help protect coasts against erosion by reducing the force of waves. However, it remains unknown whether they can provide this complementary service under future climate change when sea levels will be higher. A new study, based upon computer simulations, concludes that a wave farm off the south coast of Spain could indeed protect the coastline under higher sea levels, and cause the local beach to grow in size after storms.

Surge in fishing activity detected ahead of new marine reserve

The announcement of a new no-take fishing zone in the Pacific led to a 130% increase in fishing activity ahead of its implementation, satellite data reveal. Although fishing activity dropped to zero once the marine protected area (MPA) came into effect just over a year later, the study warns that the pre-emptive short-term surge in fishing could have caused long-term ecological damage.

Mussel study determines risk posed by rare earth metals to marine environments

Rare earth elements (REEs) are used increasingly often in innovative technologies, causing these elements to enter the natural environment. They can be sourced via deep-sea mining, raising concerns about marine exposure to mining processes and waste products. This study examined how two REEs, lanthanum and yttrium, affected and stressed marine ecosystems, using young marine mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) as indicators of water quality. The researchers determine a parameter known as the ‘predicted no effect concentration’ (PNEC) for La and Y — the maximum environmental level of each of the two elements at which no effect is seen on the most sensitive organisms and which is, therefore, deemed safe for the environment.

Salicylic acid poses no current threat to marine ragworms, finds acute Portuguese study

Contamination of the aquatic environment by pharmaceutical drugs used in human and veterinary medicine is an emerging issue, as it can cause toxic effects in biological systems. This study explored how the marine organism Hediste diversicolor, a polychaete worm, responded to exposure to salicylic acid, a key component of aspirin. They found the species to adapt and respond in a way that minimised the effects of metabolising the contaminating compound, suggesting that the acid does not currently pose a threat to marine polychaetes.

Swiss environmental impact exceeds its share of planetary boundaries

In order to manage its environmental footprint, Switzerland should act on a number of key issues identified by the ‘planetary boundaries’ framework, says a Swiss study, with priority given to the areas of climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss and nitrogen loss. This quantitative framework identifies nine bio-physical limits of the Earth system that, if exceeded, may lead to societal and ecological changes unfavourable to human development and stability. These are upper thresholds rather than targets. The researchers suggest that the concept and their methodology could be used together to think differently about environmental issues, and change the way related assessments and policies are implemented at both global and national levels.

Management strategies for EU water bodies should consider sustainability of ecosystem services, Italy

Considering the sustainability of the services provided by an ecosystem could help to overcome management challenges and hit water quality targets defined by the EU, says a new study. By exploring 13 of the ecosystem services (ES) provided by the Venice Lagoon, Italy, the researchers identify factors affecting sustainable and unsustainable patterns of ES provision, and suggest that confined and more open water bodies could benefit from different management strategies.

Transformed nanoparticles in effluent can affect aquatic organisms

Silver nanoparticles present in the effluent from waste-water treatment plants could have toxic effects on aquatic organisms, new research suggests. The lab-based study tested the effects of nanoparticle-containing effluent on several crustacean and algae species. The researchers observed that epibenthic crustaceans (those living in or on sediments at the bottom of water bodies) were the most sensitive; notably, a 20–45% higher death rate was observed compared with those exposed to nanoparticle-free effluent.

Nanoplastics damage marine creatures’ natural defences, increasing lethal effects of POPs

Nano-sized particles of plastic can be more damaging to marine species than larger sized microplastics, a new study shows. Lab tests revealed that nanoplastics can damage cell membranes in tiny marine creatures called rotifers (Rotifera), disrupting their natural defences against toxicants. The researchers found that rotifers that had been exposed to nanoparticles of polystyrene were significantly more susceptible to the lethal effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Increasing ocean acidification affects larval barramundi’s response to underwater sound cues so they are potentially attracted to the wrong type of habitat

Since the industrial revolution, the ocean has absorbed increased levels of carbon dioxide, leading to the ocean’s pH becoming more acidic. Effects of these pH changes on marine and estuarine biota is the focus of much research effort worldwide and the authors of this study focus on the larval habitat-choice process of a commercially important tropical marine fish species, Lates calcarifer, barramundi.

Alien invasive species leave European mariculture areas aboard pieces of anthropogenic litter

Areas of mariculture — where marine organisms are cultivated for food — have been identified as important source areas for the dispersal of invasive alien species (IAS) via artificial floating litter. In order to identify IAS at high risk of dispersal via this method, researchers have analysed fouled anthropogenic litter sampled on beaches in two important European mariculture areas. Overall, the team detected eight aquaculture-related IAS attached to anthropogenic litter. All of these species are well adapted to rafting on artificial surfaces and have high potential to disperse in this way, suggesting that they are suitable candidates for closer monitoring and policy action in the future.

Seven UV filters with potential endocrine-disrupting properties found at low levels in eggs of seven wild bird species, national park, Spain

Personal Care Products (PCPs) are of increasing global concern, as thousands of tonnes enter the environment every year. Similar to persistent organic pollutants (POPs), some substances used in PCPs are toxic, persist in the environment and accumulate in the bodies of organisms that take them in. This study focused on the presence of ultraviolet filters (UV-Fs) (used in PCPs such as sunscreens and cosmetics) in the unhatched eggs of wild birds.

Fibres from polyester clothes could be more damaging to marine life than microbeads

Tiny polyester fibres, which are washed into rivers, lakes and seas every time we do our laundry could cause more harm to animals than plastic microbeads, finds a new study. The researchers looked at the effect of microbeads and fibres on a small crustacean called Ceriodaphnia dubia, which lives in freshwater lakes. They found that although both types of plastic were toxic, microfibres caused more harm. Both microplastics stunted the growth of the animals, and reduced their ability to have offspring; microfibres, however, did this to a greater degree, and also caused noticeable deformities in the crustacean’s body and antennae.

Floods due to rising sea levels may mobilise arsenic from contaminated soils

New research has shown that flooding of soils contaminated with arsenic, which may occur as sea levels rise due to climate change, could lead to the mobilisation of this toxic element in the environment. The study shows that arsenic is more stable in soil flooded with saltwater, compared to river water, as salt stabilises mineral oxides and could inhibit microbial activity. However, microbes that transform arsenic into water-soluble forms may adapt to saline conditions, and the risk of arsenic entering waters due to rising sea levels should receive further attention.

Insights for urban planning — constructed wetlands sited near industry exposed to high levels of pollution

Constructed wetlands serve as a cost-effective and multi-purpose option for storm-water treatment in urban landscapes, offering flood protection as well as wildlife habitat. However, a new study shows that when nearby land use includes industry, wetlands can accumulate high levels of pollution and potentially become toxic to wildlife. This new piece of research offers important insights for the planning and management of wetlands.

Taking stock: progress in natural capital accounting – November 2017

The growing human population and a shift to more resource-intensive habits and behaviours are increasing the demands on global ecosystems. Natural capital is a way to describe Earth’s natural assets, including soil, air, water, and living things, existing as complex ecosystems, which provide a range of services to humans. Depleting and degrading these reserves may irreversibly reduce the availability of benefits to future generations. This In-Depth Report presents an overview of ideas, debates and progress so far in natural capital accounting, in particular in accounting for ecosystems and their services.

Warming in the Channel leads to a decline in cold-water fish

Results from a long-term study of fish communities in the Bay of Somme in the English Channel show that numbers of cold-water fish, such as dab and plaice, have been dropping since 1998, as sea temperatures have risen. The researchers say this is evidence of ‘tropicalisation’ in an English-Channel ecosystem. The findings may have implications for conservation policies in the Bay, which is a Marine Protected Area1 designated under the Natura 2000 programme, as well as other marine sites affected by warming.

Tackling mercury pollution in the EU and worldwide – November 2017

Mercury is a heavy metal that is well known for being the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and normal pressure. It is also a potent neurotoxin with severe global human health impacts. It can be converted from one form to another by natural processes, and, once released, actively cycles in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years before being buried in sediment. This In-Depth Report from Science for Environment Policy summarises the latest scientific studies and research results on mercury pollution in the global environment.

New online oil spill risk tool provides local, specific information for coastal managers

A new oil-spill risk-management system has been developed by researchers, which shows the likely effects of a coastal spill on the environment and economic activities for specific locations. It provides maps of oil-spill risk through a web portal and could help decision makers and emergency-response authorities protect the local environment and businesses through targeted and efficient planning and responses.

Environmental DNA survey technique for deepwater fish can complement trawl surveys

A survey of deepwater fisheries off the coast of Greenland which used traces of fish DNA has produced similar results to trawl surveys and fishing catches. The ‘environmental DNA’ (eDNA) technique can therefore complement trawl data, the researchers say. It may be particularly useful for surveying large species — which can often avoid bottom trawls — or cryptic species1 in inaccessible ocean areas.

New light-based method for detecting and monitoring algal blooms

Algal blooms in inland and marine waters could be detected and monitored more accurately in future, thanks to a new assessment method. Scientists have developed a new algorithm for sensors which identify emerging blooms of cyanobacteria based on the behaviour of light reflected by the algae’s pigment. Importantly, the algorithm may reduce uncertainty in estimations of algal concentrations by distinguishing between two different types of pigment.

Ocean acidification puts Norwegian fishing industry at risk

Fishing in most of Norway’s counties is at ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ risk from ocean acidification, concludes a new study. The researchers reached this conclusion with the use of an integrated risk-assessment method that accounts for environmental, economic and social factors within the 19 counties. They call for immediate action to protect the fishing industry against the effects of ocean acidification.

Rapid and significant sea-level rise expected if global warming exceeds 2°C, with global variation

The world could experience the highest ever global sea-level rise in the history of human civilisation if global temperature rises exceed 2 °C, predicts a new study. Under current carbon-emission rates, this temperature rise will occur around the middle of this century, with damaging effects on coastal businesses and ecosystems, while also triggering major human migration from low-lying areas. Global sea-level rise will not be uniform, and will differ for different points of the globe.

European coastal regions at greatest risk from oil spills identified by new risk index

European Atlantic countries are, in general, at higher risk of being affected by oil spills than Mediterranean and Baltic countries, with the United Kingdom most affected, according to new research. The study developed a new risk index for analysing the potential vulnerability of coastal regions to oil spills at sea.

More coordinated legislation needed to ensure the Good Environmental Status of European seas

A range of legislation, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), is designed to ensure the ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) of EU seas by 2020. Researchers have assessed the MSFD in relation to existing maritime policies, concluding that coordination between directives is important to achieve GES.

Europe could suffer major shellfish production losses due to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems worldwide, but economic assessments of its impact are lacking. A recent study has predicted the future cost of ocean acidification on mollusc production in Europe and showed that the highest economic impacts would be in France, Italy and Spain. For Europe overall, the annual damage could be in the region of €0.9 billion by 2100.

Ocean acidification — caused by climate change — likely to reduce the survival rate of Atlantic cod larvae

The impact of ocean acidification — caused by increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dissolving in sea water — on Atlantic cod larvae has been assessed in a new study. The researchers estimate that, under scenarios which might be reached at the end of the century, ocean acidification could double the mortality rate of cod larvae, reducing replenishment of juvenile fish into cod fisheries to 24% of previous recruitment.

Herbicide found in German estuaries, transported to the Baltic Sea

Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide, able to kill a broad range of plants ('weeds') that compete with crops. This study used a validated method to assess its presence in 10 German estuaries that lead to the Baltic Sea. All but one was contaminated with glyphosate, and all were contaminated with its metabolite AMPA. The researchers recommend risk assessments for these chemicals in the Baltic Sea and other marine environments.

Estimated 1455 tonnes of plastic floating in the Mediterranean

A rough total of 1455 tonnes of floating plastic is present across the Mediterranean, estimates a new study. Researchers gathered floating plastics using trawl nets and found that microplastics with a surface area of around 1 square milimetre (mm2) were the most abundant size of plastic particles found.

Mussels used to map habitat connectivity of Natura 2000 marine sites in Portugal

A species of mussel has been used to investigate the connectivity of two marine protected areas (MPAs) along the central Portuguese west coast in a new study. The chemistry of mussel shells was used to trace the dispersal routes for larval mussels, demonstrating that the Arrábida MPA is an important source population in the area.

Fish communities respond to environmental changes at a local scale in the Baltic Sea

Researchers have shown that in the Baltic Sea the abundance of common fish species, used as an indicator of ecosystem health, is influenced by climate-related oceanic conditions at a local scale, such as sea temperature. The researchers suggest, therefore, that the environmental status of coastal fish communities in the region should be assessed and managed at a local scale.

Local participation in marine planning can help achieve conservation outcomes without compromising fisheries

The importance of seagrass meadows in supporting fisheries has been highlighted by a new study in San Simón Bay, a Natura 2000 site in Spain. The research also demonstrates the benefits of stakeholder involvement in developing management plans to balance conservation with the use of natural resources.

Fisheries need better enforcement of rubbish disposal to reduce plastic waste around UK coasts

A new study has analysed marine litter on beaches across the UK, indicating that the fishing industry is responsible for large quantities of marine rubbish. The researchers recommend a combination of better enforcement of regulations covering waste disposal, and incentives for fishing vessels to reduce marine litter.

Wave and tidal energy plants are ‘green’ technologies

Environmental impacts for a wave energy device, tidal stream and tidal range plants are potentially eight, 20 and 115 times lower respectively than for coal-generated power, averaged over five impact categories. An assessment of the amount of metal used by these technologies, however, shows an impact respectively 11 and 17 times higher than for coal- and gas-based power generators. These are the findings of a recent study, which compared the life-cycle environmental impacts of various wave and tidal energy devices with other forms of energy generation. The researchers conclude that wave and tidal energy plants qualify as ‘green’ technologies according to their definition, but that their impacts on marine ecosystems need further research.

Seals avoid wind farms during the noisiest phase of construction

Wind farms are an important component of Europe’s shift towards a greener energy supply, but they could potentially have an impact on marine ecosystems. This study provides the first measurements of the distribution of harbour seals in relation to the construction and operation of wind farms, and makes recommendations to minimise any potential harm, including breaks in the pile-driving phase of construction.

Multiple fish-based indicators successfully evaluate water quality in 8-year study

Worldwide, programmes have been implemented to protect water quality from human pressures, often using ecological indicators as a method of evaluation. An eight-year study of a Portuguese estuary has found that indicators based on multiple measures of fish communities, such as the number and relative abundance of resident and migrant species, reflect human pressures on these transitional waters and could improve the implementation of water protection programmes.

Diverse fish communities have greater resistance to climate change

Marine fisheries play a key role in feeding human populations, but are faced with the twin threats of overexploitation and climate change. Using a comprehensive database of global reef-fish communities, a team of researchers has found that the greater the diversity of fish in an assemblage, the less vulnerable that assemblage is to climate change. The researchers suggest climate change mitigation efforts should include a focus on maintaining a wide range of species in at-risk communities.

Chemicals risk assessment: Baltic study recommends more monitoring of emerging pollutants

Chemicals are everywhere and new substances are regularly being introduced to the market. However, only some pose a risk to the environment. How do we decide which of them to monitor? A new study using a database of chemicals found in fish in the Baltic Sea has assessed which chemicals are commonly monitored. The researchers suggest that monitoring is biased towards known, already regulated hazardous chemicals, and recommend changes to address other chemicals.

Bioremediation of antibiotic pollution by a salt-marsh plant

The effects of antibiotic contamination may be attenuated by the common reed, new research shows. The study found that the common reed (Phragmites australis), sourced from a temperate estuary with brackish water, had capacity for the bioremediation of the veterinary antibiotic enrofloxacin (ENR). The authors suggest that salt-marsh plants and their associated micro-organisms could be a valuable asset in the recovery of contaminated estuary environments.

Aerosol pollutants can have long-range effects on ocean oxygen levels

Oxygen decline is occurring in many of the world’s oceans and has important consequences for marine ecosystems, but the causes are not fully understood. Aerosol pollutants may be partly responsible, according to a new study which modelled the effects of atmospheric pollution over the Pacific Ocean. The findings suggest that air pollution can exacerbate climate impacts on the ocean, even when the source is far away.

Constituent materials more important than weight or class for environmental impact of shipbreaking, but valuation methods differ greatly

When broken down, ships can release hazardous substances into the environment. This study investigated the environmental impact of shipbreaking in one of Europe’s few ship recycling yards, based in Portugal. The results reveal large differences between assessment methods and show that environmental impact depends on composition rather than size or class.

Marine biodiversity under threat from high levels of heavy metal pollution in Bay of Bengal

Bangladesh’s economy is heavily dependent on ship recycling. However, the shipbreaking industry is polluting the Bay of Bengal, an area of high biodiversity. This study measured trace metals in sediments around the area, concluding that heavy metal pollution is at an alarming stage and an urgent threat to marine life.

Coast around Alang-Sosiya shipbreaking yard in India ‘strongly polluted’ with heavy metals

The Alang-Sosiya shipbreaking yard in India is highly polluted with heavy metals, a study concludes. The researchers studied heavy metal contamination in sediments taken from the intertidal zone of the shipbreaking yard and compared them to a control site. The area was found to be ‘strongly polluted’ with copper, cobalt, manganese, lead and zinc.

Small plastic fragments found in intertidal sediment from world’s largest shipbreaking zone: over 80 mg/kg of sediment

Plastic pollution is a threat to marine ecosystems, as plastics are persistent, toxic and can accumulate up the food chain. This study assessed the abundance of small pieces of plastic in Alang, India. The authors found, on average, 81 mg of small plastic fragments per kg of sediment, which they say is the direct result of shipbreaking.

Micro-organism communities disrupted near world's largest ship recycling yard

Pollutants have been shown to alter the structure of bacterial communities in the coastal waters around the Alang-Sosiya shipbreaking yard in north-west India. The research analysed seawater from two sites near Alang-Sosiya and from pristine sea water taken 10 km from the coast. The results provide a clearer idea of changes to the microbial ecology near a large ship recycling yard.

Pollutants at India’s biggest ship recycling yard, including heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons, quantified

A study of the pollution caused by ship scrapping in Alang, India, shows significantly higher levels of heavy metal and petroleum hydrocarbons in sediment and seawater, compared to a control site. The researchers also found reduced populations of zooplankton — a critical food source for marine biota — and increased numbers of pathogenic bacteria.

Ship recycling: reducing human and environmental impacts – June 2016

The ship-recycling industry — which dismantles old and decommissioned ships, enabling the re-use of valuable materials — is a major supplier of steel and an important part of the economy in many countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey. However, mounting evidence of negative impacts undermines the industry’s contribution to sustainable development. This Thematic Issue presents a selection of recent research on the environmental and human impacts of shipbreaking.

Removing invasive mammals from islands leads to major biodiversity benefits

Eradication of invasive mammal species is a strategy used to help conserve biodiversity on islands and restore populations of native species. Researchers have now assessed the success of this strategy globally, highlighting the importance of controlling invasive species to protect biodiversity on islands and achieve global conservation targets.

How to choose the most cost-effective methods for improving water quality

Agricultural run-off can contain pesticides, sediment particles and nitrates and is a major threat to the health of the sea. Although there are policy frameworks to reduce run-off water, they often don’t clearly explain how to maximise benefits. A new study provides an economic framework that prioritises methods based on their cost-effectiveness, which could help policymakers to reduce the pollution of marine ecosystems.

Atlantic beaches of Europe reshaped in stormy winter of 2013–2014

Waves hitting Europe’s Atlantic coast during the winter of 2013–2014 were the most powerful in nearly 70 years, reports a new study. They caused significant coastal erosion and the study found examples of beaches which are now several metres lower. The study’s authors say that coastal planners should consider increasingly stormy conditions in the north-east Atlantic, as predicted by some climate change models.

Local-scale ecological assessments contribute to conservation planning in an Italian Marine Protected Area

Assessing threats to biodiversity is necessary for effective spatial planning and balancing sustainable development with conservation. This study details a fine-scale assessment of the effect of a range of threats to coastline habitats within a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Mediterranean Sea. The study provides an example of how local-scale assessments can contribute to national conservation policy.

Shark ‘hotspots’ and fishing activities overlap in the North Atlantic Ocean

Sharks aggregate in ‘hotspots’ in the North Atlantic Ocean and are at risk from overfishing by longliner vessels that target the same areas for fishing, a recent study has concluded. Researchers found that the shark and fishing-fleet ranges overlapped by 80% in the North Atlantic and call for international regulation of shark catches to protect at-risk shark populations.

Increasing impact of oestrogen pollution through climate change and population growth

Oestrogens are ‘female’ hormones that can enter the aquatic environment after excretion by humans and animals, causing ‘feminisation’ of male fish. This study carried out a risk assessment for oestrogen-like endocrine disruption in the UK in the 2050s, based on likely changes to the human population, river flows and temperature. The authors found that risk is likely to increase under future conditions and recommend further research to assess whether improving sewage treatment could reduce oestrogen pollution.

Polystyrene microplastics negatively affect oyster feeding, reproduction and offspring

Oysters exposed to polystyrene microplastics produced fewer offspring, which were also smaller and slower growing than offspring from unexposed oysters, according to recent research. The researchers say their study adds to growing evidence of the harm caused by microplastic pollution and can help stakeholders to take action on plastic debris entering the oceans to limit its long-term impact on marine life.

Is sustainable aquaculture possible?

Fish and shellfish farming are facing a new era of expansion in Europe. What are the environmental implications of this, and how can the sector expand sustainably? Watch the video produced by Science for Environment Policy about how aquaculture could develop in greater harmony with environmental goals.

Identifying emerging risks for environmental policies

How can we better anticipate environmental changes? In our rapidly changing world, risks occur from ongoing changes (such as those occurring in the climate), to more sudden-onset risks, such as mutating microbial pathogens. This Future Brief explores some of the tools and approaches that can be used to identify emerging risk, including strategic foresight tools, citizen science and state-of-the-art monitoring technologies.

Environmental conditions in winter can be used to predict European anchovy stock

The European anchovy is one of the most important small pelagic fish in the Adriatic Sea, but the size of the stock can fluctuate year on year. This study aimed to investigate the link between anchovy catch and winter circulation patterns in the North Adriatic sea. The findings show that oceanographic conditions during winter determine anchovy abundance. Prediction of these conditions could help to guide sustainable fisheries management in the region.

Immediate ban on fisheries discards may destabilise marine ecosystems

Discarding – returning unwanted catches to the sea – is seen as wasteful, but banning the practice would remove an important food source for many marine organisms. This study modelled the effects of gradually reducing and abruptly banning discards using data from a protected bay in Australia. The researchers recommend gradual reduction of discards in order to maintain ecosystem stability.

Localised adaptation makes some oysters more resilient to climate change than others

Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) have been shown to adapt to local environments that are as little as 20 km apart, and these adaptations can be passed on to offspring. In this study, oysters that originated from less saline areas tended to be more resilient to extremely low saline conditions than oysters from more saline areas. Since episodes of reduced salinity are a predicted effect of climate change in the San Francisco Bay area under study, the authors say their findings could be useful for future conservation and restoration efforts.

Fin whales exposed to high levels of potentially toxic microplastics in the Mediterranean Sea

Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) are likely being exposed to microplastics and associated toxic additives in the Mediterranean Sea, finds new research. The research analysed levels of microplastics and biological and chemical markers of exposure in whales from the Mediterranean Sea and the comparatively pristine Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Mexico. The results suggest that the vulnerable Mediterranean fin whale may be suffering as a consequence of microplastic pollution.

Salmon aquaculture could incorporate seaweed and sea urchins to reduce nitrogen enrichment

Farming fish together with seaweed and other species could help improve the sustainability of aquaculture and reduce pollution. A new study provides a tool for designing sustainable fish farming systems and calculates their potential to recycle waste. An example of a salmon farming system incorporating seaweed and sea urchins could reduce nitrogen releases to the environment by 45%.

Sustainable Aquaculture - May 2015

Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of worldwide food production and is facing a new era of expansion in Europe. What are the environmental implications of this, and can the sector expand sustainably? This Future Brief presents an overview of research into aquaculture’s impacts, and considers how it could develop in balance with environmental goals.

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution alter the mutual relationship between corals and algae

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution change the relationship between the tropical coral Stylophora pistillata and the algae living inside its tissues, a recent study has found. The researchers say the pollutants, mainly from urban and agricultural discharges, affect algae photosynthesis and the essential transfer of carbon from algae to the coral.

The German environmental specimen bank – a blueprint for EU chemicals management?

Environmental specimen banks (ESBs) first emerged in the 1960s and are now essential to environmental management across the globe. ESBs sample and archive environmental specimens and can be used to identify the distributions of chemicals within ecosystems and trace their exposure over time. This study uses the German ESB to illustrate their potential for chemicals monitoring in the EU.

IMPASEA: a new framework to assess marine protected areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) have well-reported ecological benefits, but may also have important socioeconomic effects on local communities. Existing methods to assess these effects have been hampered by a number of limitations. This paper describes a new framework to monitor and assess the socioeconomic effects of MPAs, which overcomes many of these limitations to provide greater value for decision makers.

Can sustainable supplies of fish meet healthy eating recommendations?

For people in the UK to eat the recommended 280 grams of fish per week, the country would have to rely on aquaculture and increasingly on imports of both wild and farmed fish from poorer countries, a recent study has revealed. This can have social and environmental implications and the researchers urge governments, particularly in developed countries, to consider nutritional advice in a global context, to minimise the impact of fish exports from poorer countries.

Shorter shipping routes not necessarily more climate friendly

For economic and political reasons, freight shipping has begun to utilise shorter routes across Arctic waters. This study assessed the costs, emissions and climate impact of trade using the Northern Sea Route between the Northern Pacific and Europe. It concludes that there are no overall climate benefits to using this route, even though it reduces voyage distance, due to the additional impact of emissions in the Arctic region.

Extent of plastics in the Mediterranean Sea: a growing problem

The extent of marine litter in the Mediterranean Basin has been revealed by a new study. Researchers reviewed previous studies to show that the northwest Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot for plastic debris. They found that marine litter harmed 134 species in the Mediterranean Sea and call for more to be done to manage the growing problem of debris, especially plastics, littering the Sea.

Integrating animal and crop production can reduce nutrient leaching from agricultural fields

Nutrient leaching, the movement of plant nutrients from soil to water, can have negative effects on aquatic ecosystems due to eutrophication, which reduces the oxygen available in water, causing species and habitat loss. Ecological Recycling Agriculture (ERA), which is based on ecological principles and integrates crop production and animal husbandry, may limit this effect. This study investigated the impact of ERA on agricultural fields in Finland, showing that the practice can reduce nitrogen leaching and may help to achieve agricultural nitrogen-reduction targets.

Soil and Water: a larger perspective - November 2015

Thematic Issue 52

Land use changes over time have altered relations between soils and water cycles throughout the world. Soils have been lost and degraded, and the closely interlinked processes of soils and water have become an urgent issue for European policymakers. This Thematic Issue aims to provide a review of new research into the links between soil and water issues in Europe, including a message that the soil-water links must be considered at their proper spatial scales.

New method for detecting microplastic particles in fish stomachs

A novel approach for identifying and isolating anthropogenic – including microplastic – particles in fish stomachs has been devised by researchers in Belgium. The new method may enable scientists and policymakers to better assess the presence, quantity and composition of particles ingested by marine life, and improve understanding of the environmental effects of marine plastic pollution.

Speed of life linked to population decline in tuna

The numbers of fish in the world’s oceans are plummeting. Past studies have shown that populations of larger fish tend to decline more steeply. This study assessed the effects of both body size and speed of life (measured by growth rate) on population declines in the tuna family. Analysis of population trends and life history data showed that speed of life better explained population decline than body size.

Complying with emissions regulations: calculating the acid plume from ships’ desulphurisation equipment

Marine diesel contains sulphur compounds, which generate sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution and acid rain. Ships can use mitigating technologies to reduce their SOx emissions, but these can also have a negative environmental impact. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced stringent legislation to control these, aspects of which are incorporated into EU policy. This study examined the implications of the IMO’s policy and recommends a number of design solutions to help ships comply.

Tests reveal toxic effects of a broad-spectrum herbicide on aquatic plants

Herbicides in aquatic environments can have negative consequences on local plant life. This study investigated the effects of glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, on a marine plant species. The herbicide caused significant changes to the plant, reducing the number and chlorophyll content of leaves, and high concentrations were lethal. The authors say use of this chemical may be dangerous to plants in estuaries.

Microalgae sticks to microplastics and transports them to the seabed

Fragments of microplastics are readily incorporated into groups of microscopic algae, altering the rate at which the plastics move through seawater, a recent study has found. In laboratory tests, polystyrene microbeads, which usually sink to the bottom of seawater at a rate of 4 mm a day, sank at a rate of several hundreds of metres a day when part of microalgae aggregates.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill exposed Peregrine falcon species to harmful hydrocarbons

Migrating tundra peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus tundrius) experienced increased levels of harmful hydrocarbons in their blood following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study finds. Blood from juvenile females was found to have the highest levels of contamination.

Marine protected areas increase survival of Atlantic cod

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely used to safeguard marine ecosystems across Europe. This study investigated the effect of a partially protected area (PPA) off the coast of Norway on a population of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). The PPA reduced the number of deaths due to fishing, increased survival and stimulated movement to surrounding areas. The authors say that preventing fishing altogether would increase survival even further and recommend no-take zones in areas where populations are severely reduced.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill exposed Peregrine falcon species to harmful hydrocarbons

Migrating tundra peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus tundrius) experienced increased levels of harmful hydrocarbons in their blood following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study finds. Blood from juvenile females was found to have the highest levels of contamination.

Marine protected areas increase survival of Atlantic cod

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are widely used to safeguard marine ecosystems across Europe. This study investigated the effect of a partially protected area (PPA) off the coast of Norway on a population of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). The PPA reduced the number of deaths due to fishing, increased survival and stimulated movement to surrounding areas. The authors say that preventing fishing altogether would increase survival even further and recommend no-take zones in areas where populations are severely reduced.

Mussels: Biomonitoring tools for pharmaceutical pollution in the marine environment?

Pharmaceutical pollution of marine environments has important biological consequences for aquatic organisms. This study investigated the effects on mussels of treatment with environmentally relevant levels of an antidepressant, fluoxetine, and a beta-blocker, propranolol, using biomarkers including DNA damage. The results showed that mussels are most vulnerable to these drugs in combination.

Collecting data to explore the ecological threat of nanomaterials

The overall ecological impact of 10 engineered nanomaterials has been modelled for the first time using toxicity data from multiple living species. These models will allow researchers to assess the effect nanomaterials may have on both ecosystems and people.

First detection of novel flame retardants in Antarctic species

Groups of chemicals used as flame retardants were present in the bodies of Antarctic rock cod (Trematomus bernacchii), young gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua), and brown skua seabird (Stercorarius antarcticus) collected from King George Island, Antarctica. This study is the first to find some of these chemicals in Antarctica, confirming that they undergo long-range transport and can reach isolated areas where they are not widely produced or used.

Link found between ‘algal blooms’ and liver disease

Cyanobacteria — often referred to as blue-green algae — are found in water bodies around the world and can produce toxins with potential health risks. This US-wide study found a significant positive association between cyanobacterial bloom coverage and death by non-alcoholic liver disease. The researchers say their study suggests some evidence of a potential health risk and should be used to generate further investigation into the health impact of cyanobacteria.

Survey of attitudes towards marine protected areas gives mixed response

The views of organisations and industries affected by marine protected areas (MPAs) have been gathered by a new survey. 36 organisations from the UK and France responded to the survey, which asked about the perceived socio-economic and environmental impacts of multiple-use MPAs. Environmental NGOs, managing agencies and research centres gave a largely positive response, while fishers’, shipping, and other industrial organisations perceived an overall negative impact on them. Gathering stakeholders’ views on MPAs may help improve socioeconomic outcomes through informing the planning and management of these marine areas, the researchers say.

Dispersants do not increase exposure of cod eggs and larvae to toxins in oil spills

Oil spills at sea can be catastrophic events, with oil and discharged toxins, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, threatening marine wildlife and coastlines, damaging healthy ecosystems and harming livelihoods. A recent study found that using dispersants moderately decreased the number of cod eggs and larvae affected by spills off the Norwegian coast.

Floating litter in the Black Sea: abundance and composition

Reliable data regarding marine debris pollution in the Black Sea are lacking. This study provides the first account of the abundance and types of litter floating in the north-western part of the Sea. This information will help to develop effective solutions for marine litter in the region and therefore to achieve the EU objective of ‘Good Environmental Status’ by 2020.

Overexploitation of fish stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas

The number of overexploited or collapsed fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea has been increasing at a rate of approximately 38 every 10 years between 1970 and 2010, a new study has shown. In the Black Sea, the equivalent figure is 13 stocks per decade, the researchers found. The study’s authors augmented traditional methods of stock assessments with a variety of other data sources on multiple fish species to give a more accurate overview of these marine ecosystems. These results should be used to improve conservation and management, they recommend.

Aeration may remove antidepressant drugs from water leaked from landfill

Aeration is an effective means of eliminating antidepressants from landfill leachate, a new study finds. The concentrations of five different drugs were reduced by this treatment process, which could be an effective means of tackling the growing problem of pharmaceutical infiltration into aquatic environments.

Fragmentation of brown trout habitat threatens freshwater pearl mussels in Sweden

The fragmentation of brown trout (Salmo trutta) habitat indirectly affects the threatened freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), a new study has shown. Dams and weirs, which affect the migration of the fish, also have a knock-on effect on the mussels, because they rely on brown trout during the larval stage of their lives.

Benefits of marine reserves revealed for wider range of fish species

Mathematical models created to help design marine reserves have tended to focus on fish species where larvae are highly mobile but adults occupy relatively small areas. However, new research has extended these models to include fish species with different life histories, such as groupers and flounders, showing that they also benefit substantially from reserve protection.

Marine governance across the English Channel lacks integration

The English Channel (La Manche) is one of the world’s busiest sea areas, and management of it is a challenging task. This study reviews governance across the Channel, finding poor integration between countries, sectors, policies and research. The study also considers management in terms of the ecosystem approach and suggests that linking research between the UK and France could be key to improving marine governance.

The economic benefits of carbon storage in the Mediterranean Sea

Carbon storage in the Mediterranean Sea could be worth up to €1722 million a year, a new study has found. The researchers performed a combined ecological-economic assessment, finding that the sea takes up an estimated 17.8 million tonnes of CO2 every year, providing important climate change mitigation.

Banned contaminants can persist in environment for decades

The contamination of hazardous substances in estuaries can have negative effects on biodiversity. Using experimentally supported indicators, this study analysed the environmental risks posed by 22 different contaminants in UK estuaries and coastal waters, finding that substances banned over 20 years ago continue to persist in the marine environment.

Plastic found in stomachs of over 1 in 6 large pelagic fish sampled in Mediterranean Sea

Plastic pollution in the ocean is a growing problem. This study, which is the first to investigate the presence of plastic debris in large pelagic fish in the central Mediterranean Sea, found that over 18% of fish had ingested plastics.

Conserving the critically endangered European eel

A number of policies have been developed to protect the critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla). Italian researchers have developed a model of the long-term population trends of the eel to assess the effectiveness of these measures and prevent further decline of this ecologically and economically important species.

Strong connections found between marine protected areas

Marine Protected Areas should be managed as integrated networks rather than isolated units because of the high degree of exchange between them, a new study suggests. The researchers found that the large majority of sea bream (Sparidae) and wrasse (Labridae) fish spawned in MPA study sites in the Mediterranean Sea were transported via currents to other MPAs and unprotected areas, highlighting their interconnected nature.

How to improve the efficiency of public participation processes in coastal management

Public participation in developing coastal management plans can have numerous benefits, such as augmenting expert information with local knowledge and building trust, a new study has confirmed; however, challenges remain, say the researchers. They use the experiences of 10 case studies to make a series of recommendations regarding how to improve the efficiency of the process.

Growth of algae affected by ocean acidification and nutrient pollution

Ocean acidification and eutrophication may affect the growth of microscopic algae - phytoplankton - with knock-on impacts for marine food chains and fisheries, warns a new study. By growing phytoplankton under different scenarios the researchers found that phytoplankton species are affected differently according to the acidity and nutrient content of the water.

Monitoring Nature: Research Developments - June 2015

This Thematic Issue provides a flavour of recent work by scientists in the area of biodiversity monitoring to highlight both up-to-date approaches to conservation and evaluation, and how long-term monitoring data could be used more effectively in management and policy decisions.

Volunteers can help on-going monitoring efforts of coral reefs by detecting long- term changes

Citizen scientists are increasingly playing an important role in monitoring environmental conditions around the world. There have been concerns, however, that the quality of volunteer data might not match the reliability of data collected by professional scientists. A new study has found that both citizen scientists and professional scientists were able to identify widespread decreases in the cover of live corals and increases in rubble and sand, during two long-term monitoring programmes of coral reefs. These results show that volunteers can indeed play a meaningful role in the conservation of these reefs, say the authors of this study.

How to ensure monitoring delivers effective, evidence-based conservation

Long-term biological monitoring is key to effective, evidence-based conservation management, new research concludes. However, greater collaboration is needed to ensure that scientists understand what kind of information is needed by conservation managers. In this way the data can deliver answers for the most important management questions.

Antarctic ecosystems suffer toxic impacts of petrochemical lubricants over the long term

Petrochemical lubricants have toxic effects on Antarctic seafloor ecosystems even after five years of degradation, a new study suggests. Examining the impacts of a standard lubricant and one marketed as biodegradable, the researchers were able to show that algae, which form the basis of the food chain, remained affected even after five years. Furthermore, the biodegradable lubricant appeared to provide no environmental benefits, as it had greater impacts in the long term.

Microplastic pollution's effects explored for two key marine species: mussels and lugworms

Mussels exposed to high levels of microplastic pollution display signs of stress, new research has shown. However, levels of exposure were higher than found in the wild and no effect on the energy reserves of either mussels or lugworms was observed in the lab. tests. The researchers caution that longer experiments may be needed to reveal microplastics' full effects.

Protecting seagrass from anchor damage: new recommendations

Damage caused by boats anchoring in seagrass meadows off the coast of Sardinia continues despite restrictions, new research shows. The study's authors provide a number of recommendations to help protect seagrass. These include creating special anchoring areas in seagrass-free locations, and limiting the number of boats that enter a marine protected area.

Seagrass worth €190 million per year to Mediterranean fishing

Seagrass meadows are worth around €78 million every year to commercial fishing in the Mediterranean, a new study estimates. Their annual value to recreational fishing is even bigger, at an estimated €112 million. The researchers say that marine policies should consider the socioeconomic effects of the loss of seagrass, which provides habitat for many fishery species.

European migratory seabirds at risk from West African fishing

Conserving West African coastal waters is also important for conserving European seabirds, suggests new research. The study shows that both adult and juvenile northern gannets and Scopoli’s shearwaters migrate to coastal waters of West Africa for winter. However, they are at risk of death from unsustainable and illegal fishing activities in this region.

Arctic ice melt affects seabird feeding behaviour

Virtually sea ice-free summers since 2005 have forced an important Arctic seabird species to change its foraging grounds and prey, new research shows. The body mass of the little auk — the most abundant seabird in the Atlantic Arctic — has shrunk by 4% in the past 20 years in one of its Russian breeding grounds, the study found. This change may be caused by its new foraging behaviour.

Pollution and overfishing are public’s biggest marine concerns

A pan-European survey has revealed the public’s awareness, concerns and priorities about human impacts on the oceans. The results show high levels of concern about marine pollution in particular, and that, generally, respondents were most concerned about the issues they felt most informed about. The study could help policymakers develop marine strategies that are more responsive to public preferences, its authors say.

Deeper seafloor habitats most at risk from bottom trawling

Bottom trawling-dragging nets along the sea floor-reduces biodiversity most severely in deeper, species-rich habitats, a study suggests. New research in the Dutch North Sea has shown that this type of trawling had less effect on species richness in shallow areas with coarse sediments. These results suggest that efforts should be made to reduce trawling in these kinds of sensitive habitats, the researchers say.

Plastic waste dominates seafloor litter in Mediterranean and Black Sea surveys

Researchers have trawled coastal areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea for waste and found up to 1211 items of litter per km2. Plastic bags and bottles were some of the most commonly found items. They present the results in a recent study, which they say supports Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) implementation, as well as efforts to discourage plastic carrier bag use.

Marine ecosystems at risk from multiple, interacting pressures

The combined effects of pollution and rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including CO2, may have effects on marine ecosystems that are more damaging than expected, warns new research. The study found that bacteria capable of breaking down oil pollution were far less abundant in sediment in acidified waters. Although increased ultraviolet-B (UV-B) light reduced these negative impacts, the researchers caution that deeper waters or other waters with less UV-B, may still suffer.

Oil spills could be cleaned up by bacteria from underground petroleum reserves

Bacteria taken from underground petroleum reserves could be used to effectively break down crude oil from spills at sea, new research has found. The study measured the breakdown of crude oil components in simulated seawater by four bacterial strains that had been isolated from petroleum reservoirs, as well as by four genetically modified stains. The findings raise the possibility of tailor-making organisms to clean up specific types of contamination.

Sudden changes in marine ecosystems should be addressed through multi-targeted approach

The world’s marine ecosystems are at risk of sudden and damaging changes. The authors of a recent study say that co-ordinated management of the many drivers of marine changes, such as overfishing and pollution, is needed across international, national and local scales to help avoid the ‘regime shifts’ that affect ecosystem services and human wellbeing.

Fish farm parasite drug threatens wildlife

A drug used to treat parasite infections at fish farms can contaminate the surrounding environment and threaten local wildlife, a new study shows. Following a week-long treatment at a Norwegian salmon farm, the authors found concentrations of an anti-sea-lice drug that were high enough to kill some crabs, shrimps and lobsters. However, they suggest the drug is not likely to pose a risk to humans.

Fishing boat wastewater shown to be potentially harmful

Wastewater emptied from commercial fishing boats is an overlooked source of marine pollution, a new US study shows. The researchers suggest that this type of pollution should be given further consideration when assessing the overall environmental impact of fishing, as it may pose a risk to human health and marine life.

Cultural ecosystem services: new valuation method tested in Turkey

A process to help identify and value cultural ecosystem services has been developed by researchers and is demonstrated in a recent Black Sea case study. This highlighted the value of anchovies to Turkish identity: respondents to a survey said that they would be willing to pay 135 Turkish lira (€49) per year in order to fund environmental management that protects this culturally important species.

Radioactive iodine in Arctic sea ice may have European origin

Ninety-eight per cent of radioactive iodine in Arctic sea ice may come from Europe, new research suggests. The study concludes that atmospheric transport of Iodine-129 from European nuclear fuel reprocessing plants is the most likely source.

Shipping oil pollution: new hazard mapping method developed

A new method for mapping the spread of oil released by ships is presented in a recent study, where it is applied to the Adriatic and Ionian Seas of the Mediterranean. The method pulls together a range of data, including information on shipping routes, oil particle behaviour, currents and climate. In this case study, it reveals pollution hotspots in the south-western Adriatic Sea and north-eastern Ionian Sea.

Environmental Scenario Planning: what if marine conservation hotspots in NE Atlantic increase under climate change?

Marine biodiversity conservation in the north-east Atlantic needs a combination of more adaptable management strategies and international co-operation, a new study says. This is required to deal with a potential increase in marine conservation hotspots under climate change.

Air pollution modelling could help predict algal blooms

Models that predict how nitrogen from the air is deposited in the sea could be useful in predicting algal blooms. Based on the knowledge that excess nitrogen increases algal growth rates, researchers simulated nitrogen deposition in the North Sea and suggested that, using predicted weather data, it might be possible to adapt this approach to predict algal blooms.

New ‘bird-washing machine’ dramatically improves survival of birds caught in oil spills

Oil spills can decimate seabird populations. Some birds can be saved, if the oil is washed from their feathers in time; however, this long process is stressful for the birds and requires numerous volunteers. Researchers have now developed a ‘bird-washing machine’ which reduces the washing time from two hours to four minutes. When trialled on oiled birds rescued from the Caspian Sea this resulted in a substantial increase in survival: 88.5% survival after seven days compared to 50% survival with current washing techniques.

Rising temperatures and acidification in the oceans spell danger for shark populations

Increasing temperatures and rising ocean acidification could reduce the health and survival of young sharks, new research has shown. Bamboo shark embryos incubated under ocean temperatures and acidity predicted for 2100 showed survival rates of 80% compared to 100% survival under present-day conditions. Once hatched, survival measured at 30 days was only 44% for those under predicted climate change conditions, again compared to 100% for those experiencing current temperature and acidity.

Shifts in Mediterranean fish farming increase pressure on wild fish stocks

Fish farming in the Mediterranean has increasingly shifted from producing fish such as grey mullet, which are herbivores near the bottom of the food chain, to species such as sea bass, which are predators. This ‘farming up’ the food chain requires wild fish to be caught to provide feed. A return to farming fish lower in the food chain would use marine resources more efficiently, a new study says.

Wind turbine risks to seabirds: new tool maps birds’ sensitivity to offshore farms

A new tool has been developed to map the sensitivity of seabirds to offshore wind farm development. The Seabird Mapping and Sensitivity Tool (SeaMaST), currently for use in English waters, combines information on the sensitivity of seabird species to wind turbines with data on the birds’ distribution. It provides maps that can be used for both the offshore wind farm industry and marine spatial planning.

Marine environment adequately covered despite complex legislation

More than 200 pieces of English and EU-wide marine environmental legislation have been analysed in a recent review. While complex, the legislation adequately covered all areas of the marine environment, the authors conclude. However, there is opportunity to remove overlap and conflicts between different legislation and improve cross-border co-operation.

Oyster imports bring alien ‘hitchhikers’ and disease

The future of oyster farming in Europe is threatened by disease. However, a recent study highlights the risk of importing oysters to improve or replace lost stock, as this could accidentally bring further disease and invasive species.

Public views on Baltic eutrophication have important policy implications

Citizens in countries surrounding the Baltic Sea would be willing to contribute financially towards long-term management of eutrophication, according to a recent study. Furthermore, most would like to see the Baltic Sea managed as a single whole, rather than only improving their local coastal area.

Herring organs damaged by acidified seawater

Ocean acidification could damage the organs of Atlantic herring, as well as slow their growth and development, recent experiments show. It adds to the list of pressures currently threatening this commercially important species, including over-fishing and marine pollution.

Female fish swap sex in polluted, low-oxygen water

Hypoxia – low levels of dissolved oxygen – can cause genetically female fish to develop into males, new research has found. Hypoxia in aquatic environments is often the result of eutrophication, which is caused by pollution from human activities. The findings suggest that hypoxia could cause fish populations to collapse, with consequences for entire ecosystems.

Shark feeding may be affected by ocean acidification

Ocean acidification may affect sharks’ sense of smell, causing them to avoid food, reports new research. In lab tests, the study found that sharks exhibited less feeding behaviour when they were kept in tanks of acidified seawater. These changes could pose a risk to the health of sharks, with knock-on effects for whole marine ecosystems.

Shipping noise puts endangered European eels at risk of predators

The noise generated by commercial shipping can impair the ability of the critically endangered European eel to avoid predators, new research has found. The results show that marine noise can have serious effects on these animals with potentially fatal consequences.

MPA costs cut through international collaboration

The cost of a Mediterranean marine protected area (MPA) network could be cut by over two thirds if countries surrounding the Sea collaborate in its creation. This is the conclusion of a study that explored how the Convention on Biological Diversity’s goals to protect wildlife through MPAs could be met cost-efficiently.

Sea lice pesticides from Norwegian fish farms can exceed UK environmental health standards

Levels of aquaculture pesticides exceed UK environmental quality standards (EQSs) in samples taken from near Norwegian fish farms, a recent study has shown. The researchers examined five pesticides used to kill sea lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) and showed that in many cases their concentrations exceeded UK EQSs. They used UK standards, they explain, because there are currently no Norwegian EQSs for these chemicals, and call for international quality standards to be drawn up.

Baltic Sea faces a tough future

The Baltic Sea is likely to be warmer, lower in oxygen and more acidic in the future, warn Swedish scientists in a recent study. Current strategies for managing the Sea will need to change if they are to meet marine protection objectives.

MSFD implementation: strengths and barriers assessed across European marine regions

There are adequate resources to implement the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in Europe, a recent study concludes. However, more clarity is needed on the roles of different institutions at EU, regional and national levels in implementing the Directive.

Users value Marine Spatial Planning in pilot project

A pilot Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) project in the UK has found MSP to be a useful approach in managing marine waters sustainably. Sharing the knowledge and experiences gained in developing the Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) can help other authorities in the process of developing similar plans, says the project team.

Mutual trust between coastal stakeholders key to successful climate change adaptation

A lack of trust between stakeholders, planners and decision makers in coastal Portugal is obstructing adaptation to climate change plans, finds a new study. The researchers suggest that building trust between stakeholders and coastal managers could lead to improved participation and dialogue for future planning, financing and implementation of coastal adaptation.

The Irish marine environment: high public awareness, but low trust in management

The Irish public are sceptical of government and industry’s ability to manage the marine economy, finds a survey. However, they place a large amount of trust in scientists. The research also indicates that people living in Ireland have a reasonable level of knowledge of the importance of different marine ecosystem services.

Marine Protected Areas: how to improve community support?

Plans for new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) need to consider social impacts alongside economic and environmental impacts, according to a recent study, which found that an MPA in the UK has increased some tensions within its local community. The researchers suggest that collaborative management could also help increase support for MPAs and reduce stakeholder conflict.

Balanced Scorecard tool could support Integrated Coastal Zone Management

A strategic management tool used to monitor progress towards organisational goals can be adapted to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), according to a new study. The researchers adapted the Balanced Scorecard for the Mediterranean region, and suggest that such an approach could be applied to other marine regions.

Baltic nutrient abatement measures identified by hybrid ecological-economic model

Policies to manage marine ecological quality can be improved by combining economic and ecological concerns, finds a new study. Using this integrated perspective, researchers developed a model which identified the most cost-effective options for reducing nutrient pollution in the Baltic Sea within a 40-year time-span. The total cost of meeting the commonly agreed targets is estimated to be €1,487 million annually.

New web-based tool supports Integrated Coastal Zone Management

A free tool to help coastal managers plan sustainable coastal development is now available online. The decision support system provides up-to-date information and data on subjects such as populations and land use, to support integrated management of coastal areas in the North Sea region affected by climate change, both now and in the future.

Albatrosses' survival seriously threatened by mercury and pollutants

Mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) reduce albatrosses’ chances of successfully breeding, a recent study finds. These pollutants add to the list of environmental pressures, including climate change, disease and fishery bycatch, affecting this highly threatened species.

Trawling threatens to destroy deep-sea ecosystems

Intensive trawling could turn seafloor ecosystems into ‘deserts of the sea’, new research warns. The study found that continuous bottom trawling for shrimp in a deep-sea Spanish canyon has damaged the foundations of marine ecosystems by dramatically reducing seafloor biodiversity and nutrients in sediment.

Harmful algal blooms in Europe will increase under climate change

Harmful algal blooms may become more common in north western European waters as a result of climate change, according to a new study. The researchers predicted that by the end of this century blooms of two groups of algal species will occur over larger areas and for longer periods every year.

Deep-water fish remove over a million tonnes of CO2 in Irish-UK waters every year

Deep-water fish living along the Irish-UK continental slope remove more than a million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year, according to a recent study. Continental slope ecosystems play an important role in carbon sequestration, which should be considered before exploiting deep-water resources, say the researchers.

Underwater survey noise affects feeding and social behaviour of harbour porpoises

Noise from underwater geological surveys may be affecting the feeding and social interactions of harbour porpoises, new research has found. The study, conducted off the north-east coast of Scotland, found that the buzz clicks used by porpoises to hunt and socialise were reduced by 15% during the surveys.

New tool to assess the ecological impacts of offshore wind turbines

How do offshore wind farms affect marine wildlife? A new study outlines a systematic approach developed for Swedish waters that could also be useful for assessing wind energy impacts on the marine environment more widely.

Fishing ban enforcement is key factor in restocking fish in marine protected areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) in which fishing is prohibited contain substantially more fish, including commercially valuable species, than either partially protected or unenforced MPAs, according to a recent survey of rocky reef fish in the Mediterranean Sea. This suggests that MPAs need to be highly protected to offer the best chance of recovery for fish stocks, say the researchers.

Seabirds suffer long-term impacts of oil spills

Oil spills can affect seabird populations for at least a decade after a major incident, a new study suggests. The authors studied the long-term effects of the Prestige oil spill on European shags and found that the numbers of chicks raised by breeding pairs were reduced in the ten years following the disaster.

Deepwater Horizon oil causes heart problems in developing fish embryos

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is likely to have damaged large numbers of tuna and amberjack fish embryos, new research suggests. Fish embryos exposed to oil samples taken during the spill developed abnormalities in their hearts and, consequently, their spines, fins and eyes. This is likely to have caused population declines in these commercially important species, the researchers conclude.

Fish caught near Second World War chemical munitions' dumps show cellular damage

Thousands of tonnes of chemical warfare agents were dumped into the Baltic Sea after the Second World War. A recent study has shown that fish caught near the dumping grounds show high levels of genetic and cell damage, revealing the long legacy of these toxic substances.

Finding space for wind power in the North Sea

A new tool for minimising offshore wind energy's impacts on other activities in the North Sea has been developed. The tool identifies space for wind farms based on their priority compared to other marine activities, such as sand extraction or fishing.

Estimated misreported fish catches may have led to incorrect Baltic fishing quotas

Misreported fishing catches in the Baltic Sea have probably led to incorrect fishing quotas, new research suggests. The study found that total catches between 1996 and 2009 have been underestimated for a significant period, skewing quota calculations.

Sea turtle by catch: Atlantic at-risk areas located

Nine areas in the Atlantic where leatherback turtles are at higher risk of bycatch have been identified in a recent study. To help protect this important species less damaging fishing practices could be used in these areas, the study concludes, and some could be candidates for marine protected status.

Largest Antarctic ice sheet more sensitive to ocean warming than previously thought

The largest ice sheet in the world, the east Antarctic ice sheet, may succumb to climate change faster than thought, according to recent research. Warming ocean currents, triggered by shifting wind patterns, could accelerate melting of the ice sheet, leading to a rise in sea levels, say the researchers.

European flooding costs could increase almost five-fold by 2050

Extreme and catastrophic floods in Europe, such as those seen in 2013, currently occur approximately once every 16 years, but this may increase to once every 10 years by 2050, according to new research. The study also suggests that annual average economic losses caused by extreme floods could reach almost five times higher than 2013 values.

Offshore renewable energy sites provide new habitat for marine species

Offshore renewable energy sites may provide new 'stepping stone' habitats for marine species, a recent study suggests. They could allow some species to spread beyond their present range and help vulnerable creatures survive in the face of climate change. However, they may also allow harmful invasive species to spread, the researchers warn, and the effects of such projects must be assessed by examining their impacts on the ecosystem as a whole.

Seafloor trawling's ecological impacts revealed by simple sampling system

Trawling's impacts on marine ecosystems can be assessed using simple metrics which characterise easy-to-obtain samples of fish, new research suggests. The Portuguese study shows that groups of fish become dominated by fewer species as fishing intensity increases, while their total biomass declines. Moreover, in the most fished areas there were other noteworthy changes, such as substantial reductions in the proportion of sharks and rays.

The effects of climate change on seafloor ecosystems

Ocean warming driven by climate change will reduce the amount of food reaching marine life on the seafloor, a recent study suggests. This would result in a 5.2% global reduction in seafloor biomass by the end of the 21st century and biodiversity hotspots, such as cold-water coral reefs, will be particularly badly affected, say the researchers.

Lugworms harmed by marine microplastic pollution

Microplastic pollution impairs the heath of the marine worms that help maintain sediments for other creatures, new research suggests. This study shows that the energy reserves of lugworms living in sediment contaminated with microplastic particles were reduced by up to 50%.

Plastic pollution measured in Mediterranean seabirds

Endangered Mediterranean seabirds are suffering from ingestion of plastic litter, a recent study has shown. Overall, 66% of 171 seabirds studied were found to have plastic fragments in their stomachs and the critically endangered Balearic shearwater was among the worst affected.

Plastic litter can pass on pollutants and chemical additives to marine wildlife

New research has provided the first conclusive evidence that microplastics ingested by marine wildlife can transfer toxic pollutants to their tissues. The researchers studied lugworms fed on PVC particles contaminated with either widespread marine pollutants or plastic additives and found that these 'earthworms of the sea' absorbed the chemicals into their gut tissue, which reduced their ability to perform essential functions.

Effective climate change mitigation in the form of seagrass restoration projects

Seagrass restoration projects could effectively mitigate climate change, capturing up to 1337 tons of CO2 per hectare after 50 years, new research suggests. If a carbon tax system was in place, the researchers add, these schemes would likely provide returns at least equal to the initial investment needed, assuming the tax was set at an appropriate level.

The effects of nuclear power cooling systems on the critically endangered European eel

A case study in Sweden has shown that critically endangered European eels are being lost when they are sucked into the local nuclear power station’s cooling system. A process to pump the eels back into the sea could be beneficial to this species, the researchers conclude.

Rising CO2's impacts on marine ecosystems and the people that rely on them

The world's ocean ecosystems will suffer warming, increased acidity, low oxygen and reduced primary food supply as a result of rising CO2 and this is likely to have dramatic environmental and social impacts, a new study concludes. It predicts that the most vulnerable low-income countries, where 870 million people are dependent on marine ecosystems, would be affected if CO2 emissions are not tackled.

Predicting fish species' decline before it's too late

An early warning system to predict the overfishing of individual species, far in advance of severe population decline, has been developed by researchers. The ‘eventual threat index’ was applied by the researchers to historical data on tuna and billfish populations, and accurately predicted their current declines as early as the 1950s.

Plastic litter in the marine environment: key issues and possible solutions

International agreements to reduce plastic use are needed to address plastic litter in the marine environment, as well as increased public awareness of the problem, according to scientists at a workshop on the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive held in Italy in 2013. The issues discussed at the workshop have been summarised in a recent research paper.