Assessing human and physical drivers of macro-plastic debris spatially across Queensland, Australia

The study provides a monitoring approach for state-wide debris management across Queensland, Australia, through the Reef Clean Project. From the study, it was found that plastics were found to be the dominant material (87% of total debris, with hard, soft, and foam plastics aggregated), although linking recovered debris to sources was limited as 67% of items were fragmented. The potential drivers of specific debris types (i.e., plastics, commercial fishing items, items dumped at sea, and single-use items) were tested, and significant relationships between debris accumulation with distance from the nearest population centre and site characteristics were also identified. This study clearly demonstrates the utility of citizen science to provide baselines and infer drivers of debris through data gathered at scales that are infeasible for most formal monitoring programmes. The identified drivers of debris may also differ from regional and global studies, where monitoring at relevant scales is needed for effective management. The findings from the study emphasise the need for empirical monitoring at management-relevant scales to detect drivers relevant to the area. There is an acute need for standardised and coherent data to understand the debris and its drivers. Monitoring programmes could be expanded through partnerships with the citizen science community, as demonstrated by the Reef Clean Program.

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