Using aerial photography and in situ measurements to estimate the quantity of macro-litter on beaches

Etsuko Nakashima, Atsuhiko Isobe, Shinya Magome, Shin'ichiro Kako, Noriko Deki
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2011, 62 (4): 762-9
This study has demonstrated a reliable method of quantifying the total mass of litter on a beach. It was conducted on Ookushi beach, Goto-Islands, Japan, and uses a combination of balloon-assisted aerial photography and in situ mass measurements. The total mass of litter over the beach was calculated to be 716±259kg. This figure was derived by multiplying the litter-covered area (calculated using balloon-assisted aerial photography) by the mass of litter per unit area. Light plastics such as polyethylene made up 55% of all plastic litter on the beach, although more work is needed to determine whether lighter plastics are transported to beaches more readily by winds and ocean currents compared with heavier plastics, or whether lighter plastics comprise a greater percentage of marine litter. Finally, the above estimates were used to calculate the total mass of metals released into coastal ecosystems via plastic litter on beaches.

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