Microplastic Accumulation in the South and North Shores of Maui, Hawaii

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2023-04-13

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Abstract

Microplastics can be found in every environment around the world and are becoming more prevalent in the marine ecosystem as the use of plastic continues unabated. Over 8 million metric tons of plastic travel from the land to the ocean each year; plastic in the ocean degrades into microplastics, releasing harmful chemicals. Microplastics are plastic particles ranging in size from 1mm to 5mm that threaten the marine ecosystem by becoming incorporated into food webs and being sequestered in sediments on beaches. Archipelagos, such as Hawaii, are at high risk of plastic pollution. This study quantified microplastic abundance on the north and the south shores of Maui, Hawaii. The north shore of Maui experiences strong currents and is more industrialized, while the south shore is protected from strong currents and experiences greater tourism. During June and July 2022, microplastics were sampled at three tidal levels on two northern and two southern beaches. The south shore had finer sand, indicating lower wave energy, a significantly greater abundance of microplastics, and significantly greater quantities of microplastics at higher tide lines when compared to the north shore. These results suggest current dynamics and increased anthropogenic impact may be contributing to microplastic loads 10 times higher on the south shore beaches. Understanding the sources and types of microplastics is needed to further protect Hawaii's fragile ecosystems.

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Management Information Systems

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