Report Open Access

Impacts of plastic pollution in the oceans on marine species, biodiversity and ecosystems

Tekman, Mine B.; Walther, Bruno A.; Peter, Corina; Gutow, Lars; Bergmann, Melanie

A new report commissioned by WWF provides the most comprehensive account to date of the extent to which plastic pollution is affecting the global ocean, the impacts it’s having on marine species and ecosystems, and how these trends are likely to develop in future. The report by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) reveals a serious and rapidly worsening situation that demands immediate and concerted international action:

● Today almost every species group in the ocean has encountered plastic pollution, with scientists observing negative effects in almost 90% of assessed species.

● Not only has plastic pollution entered the marine food web, it is significantly affecting the productivity of some of the world’s most important marine ecosystems like coral reefs and mangroves.

● Several key global regions – including areas in the Mediterranean, the East China and Yellow Seas and Arctic sea ice – have already exceeded plastic pollution thresholds beyond which significant ecological risks can occur, and several more regions are expected to follow suit in the coming years.

● If all plastic pollution inputs stopped today, marine microplastic levels would still more than double by 2050 – and some scenarios project a 50-fold increase by 2100.

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