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Plastic Debris on Georgia’s Beaches and Marshes: Recently Published Article on the Amounts and Accumulation Rates

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By: Leah Henry

Numerous media and scientific reports note plastics washing up on coastal beaches and marshes and identify land-based activities as the source. And, in a recently published Marine Pollution Bulletin article, “The amount and accumulation rate of plastic debris on marshes and beaches on the Georgia coast,” by Dr. Richard Lee, a University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography Professor and Dodie Sanders, University of Georgia Marine Extension Educator, the accumulation of plastic was significant on both heavily trafficked and more remote beaches.

Georgia Coastal Project Site Map

Georgia Coastal Site Map(Credit: Anna Boyette)

For example, the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, which is often visited by thousands of day-visitors each year, had up to 81kg of plastic debris/month on its beaches while other, more remote, and much less frequented beaches also had significant plastic accumulation, indicating the importance of plastics carried from coastal and inland waters.

With funding provided by the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Prevention through Education and Outreach grant and Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative mini-grants, as well as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Incentive Grant, collected data was recently published in the scientific journal, Marine Pollution Bulletin.

In the article, Lee and Sanders suggest that “the most useful metric is weight per unit area since it allows comparison to the standing stock or accumulation rates reported by different groups in a variety of environments, e.g. marshes, beaches, rocky shorelines. The report also found that the major type of plastics, e.g. bottles, food wrappers, plastic fragments, was highly variable at different seasons and sites. “When storms or currents bring in a number of bottles in a particular month then there can be a large increase in plastics for that month, which would help to explain much of the high monthly variability in plastic collections noted in our study.”

To read the full article:

Lee, R.F., Sanders, D.P. The amount and accumulation rate of plastic debris on marshes and beaches on the Georgia coast. Mar. Pollut. Bull. (2014)

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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