Plastics Dominate Beach Debris in a Remote Archipelago; Spatial Variations in Island Debris Accumulation Inform Targeted Beach Management

Hoare, V., Atchison Balmond, N., Hays, G.C., Jones, R., Koldewey, H., Laloë, J-O., Levy, E., Llewellyn, F., Morrall, H., Esteban, N. (2022). Plastics dominate beach debris in a remote archipelago; spatial variations in island debris accumulation inform targeted beach management. Marine Pollution Bulletin.


We report Anthropogenic Marine Debris (AMD) in Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, globally amongst the most isolated island groups. AMD on 14 island beaches in five atolls were surveyed in 2019 using two techniques: Marine Debris Tracker (MDT) along littoral vegetation and photoquadrats in open beach. Over 60 % of AMD in both beach zones was composed of plastics, especially bottles and fragments (mean = 44.9 %, 27.2 %, range = 16.5–73.2 %, 4.8–55.9 % respectively in vegetation; mean = 28.7 %, 31.5 %, range = 17.7–40.7 %, 11.6–60.0 % respectively in open beach). The density of plastic debris in littoral vegetation (MDT data: 1995 bottles, 3328 fragments per 100 m2) was 10-fold greater than in open beach (photoquadrat data: 184 bottles, 106 fragments per 100 m2). Significant latitudinal variation in vegetation AMD occurred (8-fold greater in southern atolls, p = 0.006). AMD varied within island zones: most debris observed on oceanside beaches (oceanside vs lagoon, W = 365, p < 0.001; ocean vs island tip, W = 107, p = 0.034). Standardisation of surveys using the open-source MDT App is recommended. Debris accumulation hotspots overlapped with sea turtle nesting habitat, guiding future beach clean-up prioritisation.

DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2022.113868