Estimating the size distribution of plastics ingested by animals
For now, more than 650 marine species and 50 freshwater species are known to ingest plastic debris. Here a team of researcher collected data on plastic ingestion by more than 2000 wild animals to estimate the size distribution of plastics ingested by animals.
Ifan B. Jâms, Fredric M. Windsor, Thomas Poudevigne-Durance, Steve J. Ormerod & Isabelle Durance. Estimating the size distribution of plastics ingested by animals. Nature Communications (2020) 11: 1594. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15406-6.
The ingestion of plastics appears to be widespread throughout the animal kingdom with risks to individuals, ecosystems and human health. Despite growing information on the location, abundance and size distribution of plastics in the environment, it cannot be assumed that any given animal will ingest all sizes of plastic encountered. Here, we use published data to develop an allometric relationship between plastic consumption and animal size to estimate the size distribution of plastics feasibly ingested by animals. Based on more than 2000 gut content analyses from animals ranging over three orders of magnitude in size (lengths 9mm to 10 m), body length alone accounts for 42% of the variance in the length of plastic an animal may ingest and indicates a size ratio of roughly 20:1 between animal body length and the largest plastic the animal may ingest. We expect this work to improve global assessments of plastic pollution risk by introducing a quantifiable link between animals and the plastics they can ingest.