Mitigating oceanic plastic pollution: modeling inputs, interventions and future scenarios to direct mitigation strategies for achieving measurable improvements to marine ecosystems

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Award Year: 
2017
Principal Investigator: 
Megan Barnes, University of Hawaii
Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto
Associated Program: 

 

The objective of this Pursuit is to develop and validate an online and user-friendly tool for groups to evaluate intervention scenarios aimed at addressing the global challenge of marine plastic pollution. This tool would allow regional agencies, industry, and NGOs to run regionally specific scenarios to predict how these will reduce plastic pollution. As part of the tool, the team also will develop a model that includes sources of plastic entering global oceans, and sinks where plastic is captured or otherwise exits ocean ecosystems. The model will predict future plastic inputs into the ocean, in a similar approach to carbon emissions for climate change scenarios.

Marine plastic pollution is an insidious and seemingly intractable problem. Current estimates of marine plastic pollution fail to capture the mechanistic processes linking production to ocean plastic volumes, and have limited capacity to predict the impact of management and policy interventions, such as single-use plastics bans, and other innovative interventions, such as trash capture devices, on the volume and type of plastic pollution in the ocean. This limits the development of an effective toolbox of solutions, at multiple geographic scales and levels of governance. Our workshop would bring together experts from key areas including; quantitative modeling, marine science, waste management, regional and international policy, and economics, from a range of scientific, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We propose to develop and validate an online and user-friendly tool for groups to evaluate intervention scenarios aimed at addressing the global challenge of marine plastic pollution. This tool would allow regional agencies, industry, and NGOs to run regionally specific scenarios to predict how these will reduce plastic pollution.

Our synthesis has three main goals:

  1. Produce and calibrate an accurate, detailed model that includes sources of plastic entering global oceans, and sinks where plastic is captured or otherwise exits ocean ecosystems. The model will predict future plastic inputs into the ocean, in a similar approach to carbon emissions for climate change scenarios.
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing interventions in reducing plastic pollution in oceans, and;
  3. Provide an open-access, user-friendly web-based tool, to evaluate regionally specific scenarios to address marine plastic pollution
Participants: 
Jeremy Ringma, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Stephanie Borrelle, University of Technology Auckland
Hugh Possingham, University of Queensland
Michelle Haynes, FWS International
Jenna Jambeck, UGA
Alexis McGivern, Gallifrey Foundation
Marcus Eriksen, The 5 Gyres Institute
Heidi Savelli, UNEP
Leah Gerber, Arizona State University
Miranda Bernard, ASU
Akbar Tahir, Universitas Hasanuddin
Kara Lavender-Law, Woods Hole
Laurent Lebreton, Ocean CleanUp
Roland Geyer, UCSB
Nick Mallos, Ocean Conservancy
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