Risk analysis reveals global hotspots for marine debris ingestion by sea turtles

Schuyler, Qamar A., Wilcox, Chris, Townsend, Kathy A., Wedemeyer-Strombel, Kathryn R., Balazs, George, van Sebille, Erik and Hardesty, Britta Denise (2016) Risk analysis reveals global hotspots for marine debris ingestion by sea turtles. Global Change Biology, 22 2: 567-576. doi:10.1111/gcb.13078

Author Schuyler, Qamar A.
Wilcox, Chris
Townsend, Kathy A.
Wedemeyer-Strombel, Kathryn R.
Balazs, George
van Sebille, Erik
Hardesty, Britta Denise
Title Risk analysis reveals global hotspots for marine debris ingestion by sea turtles
Journal name Global Change Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1365-2486
Publication date 2016-02-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/gcb.13078
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 22
Issue 2
Start page 567
End page 576
Total pages 10
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing
Language eng
Abstract Plastic marine debris pollution is rapidly becoming one of the critical environmental concerns facing wildlife in the 21st century. Here we present a risk analysis for plastic ingestion by sea turtles on a global scale. We combined global marine plastic distributions based on ocean drifter data with sea turtle habitat maps to predict exposure levels to plastic pollution. Empirical data from necropsies of deceased animals were then utilised to assess the consequence of exposure to plastics. We modelled the risk (probability of debris ingestion) by incorporating exposure to debris and consequence of exposure, and included life history stage, species of sea turtle and date of stranding observation as possible additional explanatory factors. Life history stage is the best predictor of debris ingestion, but the best-fit model also incorporates encounter rates within a limited distance from stranding location, marine debris predictions specific to the date of the stranding study and turtle species. There is no difference in ingestion rates between stranded turtles vs. those caught as bycatch from fishing activity, suggesting that stranded animals are not a biased representation of debris ingestion rates in the background population. Oceanic life-stage sea turtles are at the highest risk of debris ingestion, and olive ridley turtles are the most at-risk species. The regions of highest risk to global sea turtle populations are off of the east coasts of the USA, Australia and South Africa; the east Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia. Model results can be used to predict the number of sea turtles globally at risk of debris ingestion. Based on currently available data, initial calculations indicate that up to 52% of sea turtles may have ingested debris.
Keyword Caretta caretta
Chelonia mydas
Debris ingestion
Dermochelys coriacea
Eretmochelys imbricata
Lepidochelys kempii
Lepidochelys olivacea
Marine plastics
Natator depressus
Risk analysis
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 11 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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