Remote islands reveal rapid rise of Southern Hemisphere sea debris
A generation of people have now grown up thinking that shorelines strewn with anthropogenic artefacts is normal. Yet this pehnomenon is just a few decades old and aesthetics and beach cleanups are only the tip of the iceberg - plastics at sea are poisoning, choking and starving large animals and transporting small organisms to places they've never been. It is now widely acknowledged that one of the great threats to global biodiversity is establishment of pest species, yet little is known of thier latest vector, our miracle material - plastic. Annual clear ups in the northern hemisphere show only little recent increases in marine litter but this study of remote southern shores and islands shows drastic increases in accumulation across the entire southern hemisphere over 3 decades. Although there is much variability, typically now >2 items per m per year strand at the equator and items now carry hitchhikers to the most southern shores of the Southern Ocean. The number of people per area of the globe match almost exactly the amount of rubbish stranding on the shores at any latitude. The rate of change seems most extreme on the shores of subAntarctic islands. Plastics are pushing pole-wards and the wilderness shores around Antarctica are becoming symbols of our waste culture.