Author Interview: Daily accumulation rates of floating debris and attached biota on continental and oceanic island shores in the SE Pacific

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Author Interview, Hubs

PeerJ spoke to Sabine Rech at Universidad Católica del Norte in Coquimbo, Chile about the recently published PeerJ Life & Environment article Daily accumulation rates of floating debris and attached biota on continental and oceanic island shores in the SE Pacific: Testing predictions based on global models.  The article was published as part of the IABO Hub. The IABO Hub is the publishing home of the International Association for Biological Oceanography, and features the latest biological oceanography research published by the members of IABO.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a biologist with a particular focus on marine ecology and plastic pollution. In the last couple of years, my main research interest has been the transport of marine invertebrates on plastic debris.


Can you briefly explain the research you published in PeerJ?
The broader context of our research is the risk of arrival of non-native marine species “rafting” on marine litter (mainly plastics) and the need for reliable predictions of high-risk arrival areas for such organisms. Given the immense length of global coastlines and the scarceness of resources for monitoring those global coastlines, we wanted to know if existing current models can be used as simple and cost-efficient tools to identify the principal arrival areas of floating litter. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the amounts of floating litter arriving on a total of 7 beaches in four representative regions of the SE Pacific (our model system), including oceanic beaches on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Chilean continental coast. As one-time beach samplings usually underestimate the amounts of litter and attached epibionts, we decided to do daily beach samplings for 2 weeks at each site. We differentiated between litter from local sources (no epibionts or epibionts of local origin) and litter with a pelagic trajectory (as indicated by the presence of pelagic epibionts Jellyella sp. and/or Lepas spp.). Thereby we were able to get robust estimates of litter arrival frequencies for each sampled region which we then compared with the predictions of already existing models.


What did you discover and where?
We found that that high- and low risk regions for accumulation of floating litter with a pelagic trajectory in our model system (South East Pacific) were in line with the predictions of existing models. In addition to these general findings, we detected a very interesting and diverse community of local epibionts attached to the sampled litter, which may be a possible vector for range extensions.


What was significant about your findings?
We found clear differences in accumulation frequencies and calculated floating times of litter between geographic regions, which were in line with thw predictions of existing models and the main oceanographic features.


How did you first hear about PeerJ, and what persuaded you to submit to us?
Through the MARINE-B mailing list. I liked the concept of transparency, rigorous peer review and valuation of reviewers’ work.

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