Combining litter observations with a regional ocean model to identify sources and sinks of floating debris in a semi-enclosed basin: The Adriatic Sea

Daniel F. Carlson, Giuseppe Suaria, Stefano Aliani, Erick Fredj, Tomaso Fortibuoni, Annalisa Griffa, Aniello Russo, Valentina Melli

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Abstract

Visual ship transect surveys provide crucial information about the density, and spatial distribution of floating anthropogenic litter in a basin. However, such observations provide a 'snapshot' of local conditions at a given time and cannot be used to deduce the provenance of the litter or to predict its fate, crucial information for management and mitigation policies. Particle tracking techniques have seen extensive use in these roles, however, most previous studies have used simplistic initial conditions based on bulk average inputs of debris to the system. Here, observations of floating anthropogenic macro debris in the Adriatic Sea are used to define initial conditions (number of particles, location, and time) in a Lagrangian particle tracking model. Particles are advected backward and forward in time for 60 days (120 days total) using surface velocities from an operational regional ocean model. Sources and sinks for debris observed in the central and southern Adriatic in May 2013 and March 2015 included the Italian coastline from Pescara to Brindisi, the Croatian island of Mljet, and the coastline from Dubrovnik through Montenegro to Albania. Debris observed in the northern Adriatic originated from the Istrian peninsula to the Italian city of Termoli, as well as the Croatian island of Cres and the Kornati archipelago. Particles spent a total of roughly 47 days afloat. Coastal currents, notably the eastern and western Adriatic currents, resulted in large alongshore displacements. Our results indicate that anthropogenic macro debris originates largely from coastal sources near population centers and is advected by the cyclonic surface circulation until it strands on the southwest (Italian) coast, exits the Adriatic, or recirculates in the southern gyre.
Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Aquatic Science
  • Adriatic Sea
  • Floating debris
  • Lagrangian particle tracking
  • Marine litter
  • ROMS

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