A macroplastic vulnerability index for marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles in Hawai‘i

Erin L. Murphy, Leah R. Gerber, Chelsea M. Rochman, Beth Polidoro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Plastic pollution is having devastating consequences for marine organisms across the planet. However, the population level effects of macroplastic pollution remain difficult and costly to quantify. As a result, there is a need for alternative approaches to evaluate species risk to plastic pollution and inform management needs. We apply a trait-based framework for macroplastic pollution to develop a relative vulnerability index—informed by three dimensions: likelihood of exposure, species' sensitivity, and population resilience—for marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles found in Hawai‘i. This index ranks 63 study species based on their population level vulnerability to macroplastic pollution, with the highest scoring species being the most vulnerable. Our results indicate that ducks, waders, and noddies with large populations were the least vulnerable to macroplastics, while the most vulnerable were the Hawaiian monk seal, sea turtles, baleen whales, and some albatross and petrel species. This index can inform species in need of population monitoring in Hawai'i, and direct other management priorities (e.g., locations for clean-ups or booms). More broadly, this work exemplifies the value of qualitative risk assessment approaches for better understanding the population level effects of macroplastic pollution and showcases how vulnerability indices can be used to inform management priorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number168247
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume908
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 15 2024

Keywords

  • Birds
  • Entanglement
  • Ingestion
  • Macroplastic
  • Mammals
  • Plastic pollution
  • Risk assessment
  • Turtles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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