A Sea of Plastic- The State of Our Shorelines: June Update

Sally is the first of our collaborators, she is going to be writing a monthly piece as she works alongside Professor Richard Thompson,  designing and carrying out a project this summer to establish relationships in abundance of different types of micro plastic found along the sedimentary beaches near her home in North Devon. Here is the first part. 

In the wake of a big spring tide of 8.5 meters & small swells, the first sampling session of the project began. Focusing on the high tide strand line, where the majority of both organic and inorganic debris is found, samples were collected at regular intervals. Sampling began as close to the main beach access point of possible and ended 100m further along the beach. This will hopefully give an indication of the direct human-induced littering on each beach.

In order to gain a detailed understanding of the abundance of both macro and micro plastic distribution on the beaches of North Devon, a number of sampling techniques have been employed.

Four beaches were sampled: Saunton, Croyde, Puttsborough & Woolacombe.

Firstly, a quadrat was used to identify the amount of plastic debris covering the surface of a chosen area of sand. This is a simple technique that allows instant visual comparison between and upon each beach.  Next, 1 litre samples of surface sediment was taken from within each quadrat area. This will later be sieved and examined in the laboratory to identify the types of micro plastic within the sediment, not visible to the naked eye. Finally, any fragments of plastic within each quadrat were collected for further examination at the end of the study.

My hypothesis stands that the beach with highest abundance of both macro and micro plastic will be those located in close proximity to residential areas i.e Woolacombe & Croyde. However, if the first sampling session is anything to go by, my hypothesis could be proven wrong. Stay tuned to July’s update to see how the project progresses.

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