Microplastic abundance and biodiversity richness overlap: Identification of sensitive areas in the Western Ionian Sea

Marine Pollution Bulletin

Volume: 177 Pages: 113550 ISSN: 0025-326X Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113550

Authors:Matteo Galli, Paola Tepsich, Matteo Baini, Cristina Panti, Massimiliano Rosso, Ariadni Vafeiadou, Martha Pantelidou, Aurélie Moulins, Maria Cristina Fossi

Abstract: Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea has been widely reported, but its impact on biodiversity has not been fully explored. Simultaneous sampling of microplastics (MP) with a manta net and surveys of large marine vertebrates were conducted along the coastal waters of Sicily (Western Ionian Sea). A total of 17 neustonic samples have been collected and 17 marine species (cetaceans, sea turtles, seabirds, and fish) have been sighted in the target area. Kernel density estimation was evaluated to highlight a possible overlap between the presence of large marine fauna and MP densities to provide a preliminary risk assessment. The highest biodiversity and MP concentration (0.197 ± 0.130 items/m2) were observed in the southernmost part of the studied area. The overlap between biodiversity hotspots and the occurrence of MP, potential contribute to the identification of sensitive areas of exposure in a poorly studied region.