Battling the known unknowns: A synoptic review of aquatic plastics research from Australia, the United Kingdom and China

Harriet L. Paterson, Jessica L. Stead, Thomas Crutchett, Renae K. Hovey, Benjamin M. Ford, Peter Speldewinde, Lina M. Zapata-Restrepo, Lu Yanfang, Xiaoyu Zhang, Andrew B. Cundy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Plastic pollution is a global environmental and human health issue, with plastics now ubiquitous in the environment and biota. Despite extensive international research, key knowledge gaps ("known unknowns") remain around ecosystem-scale and human health impacts of plastics in the environment, particularly in limnetic, coastal and marine systems. Here we review aquatic plastics research in three contrasting geographic and cultural settings, selected to present a gradient of heavily urbanised (and high population density) to less urbanised (and low population density) areas: China, the United Kingdom (UK), and Australia. Research from each country has varying environmental focus (for example, biota-focussed studies in Australia target various bird, fish, turtle and seal species, while UK and China-based studies focus on commercially important organisms such as bivalves, fish and decapods), and uses varying methods and reporting units (e.g. mean, median or range). This has resulted in aquatic plastics datasets that are hard to compare directly, supporting the need to converge on standardised sampling methods, and bioindicator species. While all the study nations show plastics contamination, often at high levels, datasets are variable and do not clearly demonstrate pollution gradients. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1663-1680
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Science: Processes and Impacts
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

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