Spatial Scale

Considering that marine litter is a global issue, the collection of data over extensive spatial scales is particularly important (Galgani et al. 2015). Professional research can address this issue, but requires a work-intensive sampling effort or the use of expensive equipment, such as buoys, aircraft, submersible vehicles and satellites (e.g. Pichel et al. 2007; Maximenko et al. 2012). These types of sophisticated surveys might be too expensive for citizen science projects, but with a reasonable budget, citizen science offers the opportunity to establish extensive networks of sampling stations on the ground. Citizen science studies have been conducted on the local (one sampling site), regional (several sampling sites), national and even international scale (Table 16.2). The more extensive citizen science studies were conducted by “The International Pellet Watch” project (see Ogata et al. 2009; Hirai et al. 2011; Heskett et al. 2012), in which volunteers from 17 countries have collected pellets from local beaches and sent them to Tokyo for laboratory analyses. This project has monitored the pollution status of persistent organic pollutants in the oceans since 2005, extending their sampling locations to several new places (Fig. 16.2).

In contrast, professional studies have been conducted relatively homogeneously over all spatial scales, with the exception of national surveys, which only represented two (5 %) of all professional studies (Table 16.2). Examples of local studies include Corcoran et al. (2009) on plastic degradation on Kauai, Hawaii, Graham and Thompson (2009) on the ingestion of plastics by sea cucumbers, and

Table 16.2 Comparison of the spatial scale of citizen science (N = 40), and professional studies (N = 40)

Spatial scale

Citizen science

Professional

No.

%

No.

%

Local

12

30

16

40

Regional

14

35

9

22.5

National

8

20

2

5.0

International

6

15

13

32.5

Fig. 16.2 PCB concentration on beached pellets from the volunteer-based global monitoring program “International Pellet Watch”. Figure modified from: pelletwatch.org/ (access: July 2014)

Santos et al. (2005) on the relationship between beach users and litter generation at Cassino Beach, Rio Grande City, Brazil. Regional research examples are from Costa et al. (2010) on the distribution and composition of debris on beaches from Northeast Brazil, and Chiappone et al. (2005) on the impact of lost fishing gear on coral reefs in Florida, USA. A worldwide coverage was achieved by Browne et al. (2011) who determined the microplastics abundance (mainly from cloth fibres) at shorelines of 18 countries.

 
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