• A critical review of harm associated with plastic ingestion on vertebrates

      Puskic, PS; Lavers, JL; Bond, AL (Elsevier BV, 2020-07-07)
      Studies documenting plastic ingestion in animals have increased in recent years. Many do not describe the less conspicuous, sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion, such as reduced body condition or physiological changes. This means the severity of this global problem may have been underestimated. We conducted a critical review on the sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion on marine vertebrates (excluding fish). We found 34 papers which tried to measure plastics' impact using a variety of tools, and less than half of these detected any impact. The most common tools used were visual observations and body condition indices. Tools that explore animal physiology, such as histopathology, are a promising future approach to uncover the sub-lethal impacts of plastic ingestion in vertebrates. We encourage exploring impacts on species beyond the marine environment, using multiple tools or approaches, and continued research to discern the hidden impacts of plastic on global wildlife.
    • A Horizon Scan of research priorities to inform policies aimed at reducing the harm of plastic pollution to biota

      Provencher, JF; Liboiron, M; Borrelle, SB; Bond, AL; Rochman, C; Lavers, JL; Avery-Gomm, S; Yamashita, R; Ryan, PG; Lusher, AL; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-09-01)
      Plastic pollution in the oceans is a priority environmental issue. The recent increase in research on the topic, coupled with growing public awareness, has catalyzed policymakers around the world to identify and implement solutions that minimize the harm caused by plastic pollution. To aid and coordinate these efforts, we surveyed experts with scientific experience identified through their peer-reviewed publications. We asked experts about the most pressing research questions relating to how biota interact with plastic pollution that in turn can inform policy decisions and research agendas to best contribute to understanding and reducing the harm of plastic pollution to biota. We used a modified Horizon Scan method that first used a subgroup of experts to generate 46 research questions on aquatic biota and plastics, and then conducted an online survey of researchers globally to prioritize questions in terms of their importance to inform policy development. One hundred and fifteen experts from 29 countries ranked research questions in six themes. The questions were ranked by urgency, indicating which research should be addressed immediately, which can be addressed later, and which are of limited relevance to inform action on plastics as an environmental pollutant. We found that questions relating to the following four themes were the most commonly top-ranked research priorities: (i) sources, circulation and distribution of plastics, (ii) type of harm from plastics, (iii) detection of ingested plastics and the associated problems, and (iv) related economies and policy to ingested plastics. While there are many research questions on the topic of impacts of plastic pollution on biota that could be funded and investigated, our results focus collective priorities in terms of research that experts believe will inform effective policy and on-the-ground conservation.