Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Ultrafine plastic particles found in Flesh-footed Shearwaters

Jennifer Lavers (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Australia) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on assessing plastic loads in Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carneipes made up of particles under one millimetre in size.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Plastic debris is a major global threat to marine ecosystems and species. However, our knowledge of this issue may be incomplete due to a lack of a standardized method for quantifying ingested ultrafine particles (1 μm – 1 mm) in wildlife. This study provides the first quantification of ultrafine plastic in seabirds using chemical and biological digestion treatments to extract plastic items from seabird gizzards. The alkaline agent, potassium hydroxide, outperformed the enzyme corolase, based on cost and efficiency (e.g., digestion time). Ultrafine plastics were observed in 7.0% of Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes) gizzards collected from Lord Howe Island, Australia and accounted for 3.6% of all plastic items recovered (13 out of 359 items). Existing methods for extracting ingested plastic from seabirds do not account for ultrafine particles, therefore our results indicate current seabird plastic loads, and the associated physical and biological impacts, are underestimated.”

Removing plastic from a Flesh-footed Shearwater, photograph by Ian Hutton

Reference:

Lavers, J.L., Stivaktakis, G., Hutton, I. & Bond, A.L. 2019.  Detection of ultrafine plastics ingested by seabirds using tissue digestion.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 142: 470-474.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 April 2018

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