Introduction & Background
With an increasing awareness of the growing level of plastic in the environment, human activity has a significant impact on the health of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. After one year of daily macroplastic surveys on remote coasts of Samos, a new project was inititated this spring aiming to assess the influx of waste items into the Aegean Sea onto specified beaches and coastal sites of Lipsi, an island with an impressive waste management system, where the majority of debris reaching its coasts end up there from other parts of the Aegean. All debris recorded is being analysed and catalogued into data sets to establish a pattern of macroplastics and other debris found in accordance with the health of marine ecosystems. The project aims to analyse correlations and differences between beaches and to examine the types of litter to determine if the source is anthropogenic or marine. The project also aims to increase public awareness about the detrimental effects of littering on beaches and aims to increase awareness on a wider scale.
Each day a specific beach is being surveyed by a minimum of 2 people using walking pattern 1. Litter is collected in mornings at approximately 10am to minimize interference of tourist activities, lasting for a maximum of 1 hour. Number of tourists, volunteers and beach material are recorded for each site. Additionally, 15-minute nurdle surveys occur at 4 points from low to high shore. Debris is being collected in reusable cotton bags and categorized back at base. This consists of counting the types of litter, photographing litter and noting any recognisable brands which have been collected. From here we can analyse the data collected and compare beaches with historical data.
This project is fairly new for Lipsi island but so far, we have already established trends in which litter is most common. The high levels of rope on less touristy beaches suggest prominence of ghost fishing and abandoned lines. Another trend we have found is that more touristic beaches (Katsadia, Lientou and Kambos) have higher levels of cigarette butts, soft plastics (snack wrappers) and other anthropogenic litter such as tissues and metal cans. The more secluded and less touristic beaches (Kimisi and Mersini) have more fishing and marine litter which often gets washed ashore by tides and adverse weather.
Relating to the ongoing nurdle project, we have found thus far that the sediment type plays the biggest factor in nurdle density. Beaches with a fine sandy stratum have the most nurdles and beaches such as Kimisi, Mersini and Toukomnina with medium/small pebbles makes it difficult to find nurdles.
The main aim of this project is to quantify litter coming into the island and determine how much of it is marine and how much is anthropogenic. This will allow us to raise awareness of the problem of marine plastic pollution and educate the public on reducing plastic consumption. As Lipsi is a truly sustainable island with an impressive waste management system, we know that the constant influx of trash that accumulates on its beaches and coasts is brought ashore from other areas of the NE Mediterranean. On average, for every hour spent monitoring and collecting litter from the coasts, our team collects 580 bottle caps and over 2,000 pieces of various plastic fragments and trash that are then categorized for data analysis. These plastics contaminate marine habitats and can break down very fast into fragments that are often ingested by marine animals.
BSc Hons Environmental Resource Management
BSc Hons Marine & Freshwater Biology
Edinburgh Napier University