Biodiversity

Invasions by marine life on plastic debris

Abstract

Colonization by alien species poses one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity1. Here I investigate the colonization by marine organisms of drift debris deposited on the shores of 30 remote islands from the Arctic to the Antarctic (across all oceans) and find that human litter more than doubles the rafting opportunities for biota, particularly at high latitudes. Although the poles may be protected from invasion by freezing sea surface temperatures, these may be under threat as the fastest-warming areas anywhere2 are at these latitudes.

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Figure 1: A global picture of shore debris.
Figure 2: Colonization of man-made and natural debris by marine organisms at different latitudes.

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Correspondence to David K. A. Barnes.

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Barnes, D. Invasions by marine life on plastic debris. Nature 416, 808–809 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/416808a

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