Our publications cover topics including impacts of plastic pollution on plants, animals, and aquatic environments, and biology and ecology of seabirds.

Assessing the effectiveness of MARPOL Annex V at reducing marine debris on Australian beaches

Here, we evaluated whether MARPOL Annex V translated into a decrease in the incidence of shipping- and commercial fishing-sourced debris on remote beaches in Australia using 14 years of standardised, community-driven data. From 2006 to 2020 there was a significant change over time in the density of fishing and shipping debris on Australian beaches; debris density increased up to 2013 followed by a decrease until mid-2017. Although the new regulation started in January 2013, the decrease in density was not recorded until one year later. The decline was only observed for 4 years. Publication Details »

Pumice ingestion in seabirds: interannual variation, and relationships with chick growth and plastic ingestion

We analysed the amount of ingested pumice from 739 Flesh-footed & 173 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters from Lord Howe Island during 2011-2022. Pumice mass did not vary over time and there was no effect of pumice mass on chick body size at fledgling. Publication Details »

Long-term decline in fledging body condition of Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes)

On Lord Howe Island, we measured Flesh-footed Shearwater fledglings in the colony and adjacent beaches to determine how body condition changed during 2010–2022. Overall, we found chick body mass as well as wing, culmen, and head + bill length declined over time with larger declines observed in beach-washed birds. Culmen and head + bill length declined by 0.17 and 0.23 mm/year, respectively, and body mass by 16.1 g/year. The number of chicks fledging at <400 g has increased sharply in recent years, meaning significant numbers of birds are unlikely to survive after departing the island. Publication Details »

‘Plasticosis’: Characterising macro- and microplastic-associated fibrosis in seabird tissues

Plastic presence in shearwaters from Lord Howe Island was associated with widespread scar tissue formation and extensive changes to, and even loss of, tissue structure. Additionally, despite naturally occurring pumice also being found in the gastrointestinal tract, this did not cause similar scarring. This highlights the unique pathological properties of plastics and raises concerns for other species impacted by plastic ingestion. Further, the extent and severity of fibrosis documented in this study gives support for a novel, plastic-induced fibrotic disease, which we define as ‘Plasticosis,’. Publication Details »

Can the mass of plastic ingested by seabirds be predicted by the number of ingested items?

For wildlife, the mass and number of ingested plastics are widely reported, but these are not without their challenges, especially in field settings. Rapid methods for estimating the mass of ingested plastic could therefore be useful, but the relationship with the number of ingested pieces has not been explored. Publication Details »

Foraging strategy influences the quantity of ingested micro- and nanoplastics in shorebirds

Coastlines, including estuaries, mudflats, and beaches, are particularly susceptible to plastic pollution, which can accumulate from both marine and terrestrial sources. Here, we quantified small plastics (200 nm–70 μm) in two resident shorebird species (Pied Oystercatcher & Hooded Plover) in Tasmania, and compared this to quantities found in the surrounding sediments in order to investigate the potential exposure and transfer of particles within these ecosystems. Publication Details »

New methods for the quantification of ingested nano- and ultrafine plastics in seabirds

Plastic ingestion has been documented in a plethora of taxa. However, there is a significant gap in the detection of tiny particles (invisible to the naked eye) due to size limitations of commonly used techniques. Using two Australian seabird species as case studies, we tested a novel approach of flow cytometry to quantify ingested nanoplastics (<70 μm) in shearwater guano. Publication Details »