Marine plastic litter has become one of the foremost environmental concerns of the 21st century but much of the available information on marine litter is scattered and disconnected. The DEEP project will develop a novel ‘mass-balance’ model of plastic litter flows in the global ocean, analysing the influence of alternative management scenarios on plastic flows in the coming years and decades.
More specifically, the DEEP project will investigate three important questions:
(1) how do plastics enter and get distributed in marine environments,
(2) how vulnerable to plastic species-at-risk can be
(3) what are the past trends and possible future scenarios of marine plastic pollution.
The methodological approach will combine: (i) the compilation, standardization, and spatial integration of trans-ecosystem datasets, (ii) the numerical modelling of the loads and flows of plastic debris between marine environments, from shores and nearshore waters to deep ocean seafloors, (iii) risk assessment on marine species of special concern, and (iv) simulation and exploration of alternative marine litter scenarios. A comprehensive understanding of the inputs and distribution of plastic across marine ecosystems in past and future scenarios will provide core information to know the true extent of the problem, support the decision-making process, and ultimately, improve ocean health and human well-being.