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Spatio-temporal distribution of floating objects in the German Bight (North Sea)
Thiel, M.; Hinojosa, I.A.; Joschko, T.; Gutow, L. (2011). Spatio-temporal distribution of floating objects in the German Bight (North Sea). J. Sea Res. 65(3): 368-379. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.seares.2011.03.002
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine
Author keywords
    Floating algae Driftwood Anthropogenic debris Dispersal Rafting North Sea

Authors  Top 
  • Thiel, M.
  • Hinojosa, I.A.
  • Joschko, T.
  • Gutow, L.

Abstract
    Floating objects facilitate the dispersal of marine and terrestrial species but also represent a major environmental hazard in the case of anthropogenic plastic litter. They can be found throughout the world's oceans but information on their abundance and the spatio-temporal dynamics is scarce for many regions of the world. This information, however, is essential to evaluate the ecological role of floating objects. Herein, we report the results from a ship-based visual survey on the abundance and composition of flotsam in the German Bight (North Sea) during the years 2006 to 2008. The aim of this study was to identify potential sources of floating objects and to relate spatio-temporal density variations to environmental conditions. Three major flotsam categories were identified: buoyant seaweed (mainly fucoid brown algae), natural wood and anthropogenic debris. Densities of these floating objects in the German Bight were similar to those reported from other coastal regions of the world. Temporal variations in flotsam densities are probably the result of seasonal growth cycles of seaweeds and fluctuating river runoff (wood). Higher abundances were often found in areas where coastal fronts and eddies develop during calm weather conditions. Accordingly, flotsam densities were often higher in the inner German Bight than in areas farther offshore. Import of floating objects and retention times in the German Bight are influenced by wind force and direction. Our results indicate that a substantial amount of floating objects is of coastal origin or introduced into the German Bight from western source areas such as the British Channel. Rapid transport of floating objects through the German Bight is driven by strong westerly winds and likely facilitates dispersal of associated organisms and gene flow among distant populations.

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