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Mar Pollut Bull. 2011 Aug;62(8):1708-13. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.05.032. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Small plastic debris changes water movement and heat transfer through beach sediments.

Author information

1
Marine Science Department, University of Hawai'i at Hilo, 200 W. Kawili St., Hilo, HI 96720, United States. hcarson@hawaii.edu

Abstract

We investigated the physical properties of beaches contaminated with plastic fragments. We compared sediment cores from Hawai'i Island's Kamilo Beach, notable for plastic accumulation, to cores from a nearby beach. Compared to the nearby beach, Kamilo sediments contained more plastics (up to 30.2% by weight), were coarser-grained, and were more permeable (t-test, p<0.0001). 85% of the fragments were polyethylene, and 95% were concentrated in the top 15 cm of the cores. We constructed artificial cores of standardized grain size and varying plastic-to-sediment ratios. Adding plastic significantly increased the permeability (ANOVA, p=0.002), which was partially attributed to the fragments increasing the mean grain size. Sediments with plastic warmed more slowly (16% maximum decrease in thermal diffusivity), and reached lower maximum temperatures (21% maximum increase in heat capacity). These changes have a variety of potential effects on beach organisms, including those with temperature-dependent sex-determination such as sea turtle eggs.

PMID:
21700298
DOI:
10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.05.032
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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