The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris

van Sebille, Erik; Aliani, Stefano; Law, Kara L.; Maximenko, Nikolai; Alsina, José M; Bagaev, Andrei; Bergmann, Melanie; Chapron, Betrand; Chubarenko, Irina; Cózar, Andrés; Delandmeter, Philippe; Egger, Matthias; Fox-Kemper, Baylor; Garaba, Shungudzemwoyo P; Goddijn-Murphy, Lonneke; Hardesty, Britta Denise; Hoffman, Matthew J; Isobe, Atsuhiko; Jongedijk, Cleo E; Kaandorp, Mikael L A; ... (2020). The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris. Environmental Research Letters, 15(2), 023003. IOP Publishing 10.1088/1748-9326/ab6d7d

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Marine plastic debris floating on the ocean surface is a major environmental problem. However, its distribution in the ocean is poorlymapped, and most ofthe plastic waste estimated to have entered the ocean from land is unaccounted for. Better understanding ofhow plastic debris is transported from coastal and marine sources is crucial to quantifyand close the global inventory ofmarine plastics, which in turn represents critical information for mitigation or policy strategies. At the same time, plastic is a unique tracer that provides an opportunity to learn more about the physics and dynamics of our ocean across multiple scales, from the Ekman convergence in basin-scale gyres to individual waves in the surfzone. In this review, we comprehensively discuss what is known about the different processes that govern the transport offloating marine plastic debris in both the open ocean and the coastal zones, based on the published literature and referring to insights from neighbouring fields such as oil spill dispersion, marine safety recovery, plankton connectivity, and others. We discuss how measurements ofmarine plastics (both in situ and in the laboratory), remote sensing, and numerical simulations can elucidate these processes and their interactions across spatio-temporal scales.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Laufkötter, Charlotte


500 Science > 530 Physics




IOP Publishing




Charlotte Laufkötter

Date Deposited:

19 Mar 2021 12:08

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:48

Publisher DOI:





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