About this Research Topic
While many pictures and videos show dense rafts of floating litter on the world oceans, research typically overlooks the phenomena of litter accumulation at the sub-mesoscale (on the order of one of kilometer horizontally). The small patches of litter usually measure tens or hundreds of meters in length but may extend over a few kilometers. They are awkward to study because they are very scattered and ephemeral, having evolutionary times that could be in the order of hours or few days. The present Research Topic aims to bring the attention on these spots of pollution, which we call litter windrows, in line with the traditional terminology used to refer the floating rafts of seafoam, algae and natural debris found on the ocean.
Typical ship surveys studying litter pollution rely on net trawling or visual counts over random line transects about one or more kilometers long, regardless the heterogeneity at smaller scale. Globally, the highest concentrations of floating macro-litter (> 2 cm in size) reported from the transect methods are on the order of 1 item per 1000 m2. However, we are aware that that macro-litter concentration easily reaches several orders of magnitude greater into the litter windrows. Such high litter densities may afford unique opportunities for the remote-sensing monitoring or for conducting mitigating actions. Furthermore, like the surface aggregations of plankton and natural debris, the now common litter windrows might act as attractants of marine life and hot spots of interaction between litter and organisms. Detection and monitoring of litter windrows might help to prevent contamination by litter of sensitive areas, whether by their natural value (e.g., marine protected areas) or economic activity (e.g., tourism, aquaculture, fishing).
From this Research Topic, we aim to promote multi and interdisciplinary research orientated towards the marine litter windrows as study target. Contributions might for instance provide insight into:
• Best methods for the detection, monitoring and sampling of micro- and macro-litter windrows
• Experimental manipulations simulating litter windrows
• Loading, compositions and concentrations of litter and natural debris inside and outside windrows
• Shapes and spatial patterns of litter windrows (dimensions, spatial arrangement, spacing, vertical extent)
• Formation times, persistence and mobility of litter windrows
• When (e.g. seasonality) and where litter windrows form
• Environmental conditions and mechanisms responsible for their formation
• Interactions between organisms (e.g. jellyfish, large predators) and litter windrows
• Experiences of cleanups of floating macro-litter
• Explorations to remotely sense litter windrows using satellites, planes, drones or other platforms
Dr. Arias is employed by ARGANS Ltd. The other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic theme.
Keywords: Marine litter, Floating plastic, Sub-mesoscale, Remote Sensing, Waste management, Ocean Cleanup
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.