Policy Update

First in Science: Plastics Serve As Unlikely Transport For Non-Native Species



NCEL Point of Contact


A study published in Science indicates an unlikely relationship between non-native species and plastics. The study found that plastics and other marine debris aided in transporting non-native species across the world’s oceans. With the increase of strong storms and coastal urbanization, this could lead to a drastic increase in the transmission of non-native–and potentially invasive–species.

The study tracked debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami reaching Hawaii and North America. Researchers found that the durability of plastic debris enabled organisms to survive a journey across the ocean and then thrive once reaching western North America.

Over 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year and this number is likely to increase. With an expected increase in storm events, this could lead to a rise in invasive species, which threaten coastal environments. Please contact NCEL if you would like assistance with invasive species or plastic pollution efforts in your state.