Towards the integrated marine debris observing system

Nikolai Maximenko, Paolo Corradi, Kara L. Law, Erik Van Sebille, Shungudzemwoyo P. Garaba, Richard S. Lampitt, Francois Galgani, Victor Martinez-Vicente, Lonneke Goddijn-Murphy, Joana M. Veiga, Richard C. Thompson, Christophe Maes, Delwyn Moller, Carolin R. Löscher, Anna M. Addamo, Megan Lamson, Luca R. Centurioni, Nicole Posth, Rick Lumpkin, Matteo VinciAna M. Martins, Catharina D. Pieper, Atsuhiko Isobe, Georg Hanke, Margo Edwards, Irina P. Chubarenko, Ernesto Rodriguez, Stefano Aliani, Manuel Arias, Gregory P. Asner, Alberto Brosich, James T. Carlton, Yi Chao, Anna Marie Cook, Andrew Cundy, Tamara S. Galloway, Alessandra Giorgetti, Gustavo J. Goni, Yann Guichoux, Britta D. Hardesty, Neil Holdsworth, Laurent Lebreton, Heather A. Leslie, Ilan Macadam-Somer, Thomas Mace, Mark Manuel, Robert Marsh, Elodie Martinez, Dan Mayor, Morgan Le Moigne, Maria Eugenia Molina Jack, Matt C. Mowlem, Rachel W. Obbard, Katsiaryna Pabortsava, Bill Robberson, Amelia Elena Rotaru, Maria Teresa Spedicato, Martin Thiel, Alexander Turra, Chris Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Plastics and other artificial materials pose new risks to health of the ocean. Anthropogenic debris travels across large distances and is ubiquitous in the water and on the shorelines, yet, observations of its sources, composition, pathways and distributions in the ocean are very sparse and inaccurate. Total amounts of plastics and other man-made debris in the ocean and on the shore, temporal trends in these amounts under exponentially increasing production, as well as degradation processes, vertical fluxes and time scales are largely unknown. Present ocean circulation models are not able to accurately simulate drift of debris because of its complex hydrodynamics. In this paper we discuss the structure of the future integrated marine debris observing system (IMDOS) that is required to provide long-term monitoring of the state of the anthropogenic pollution and support operational activities to mitigate impacts on the ecosystem and safety of maritime activity. The proposed observing system integrates remote sensing and in situ observations. Also, models are used to optimize the design of the system and, in turn, they will be gradually improved using the products of the system. Remote sensing technologies will provide spatially coherent coverage and consistent surveying time series at local to global scale. Optical sensors, including high-resolution imaging, multi- and hyperspectral, fluorescence, and Raman technologies, as well as SAR will be used to measure different types of debris. They will be implemented in a variety of platforms, from hand-held tools to ship-, buoy-, aircraft-, and satellite-based sensors. A network of in situ observations, including reports from volunteers, citizen scientists and ships of opportunity, will be developed to provide data for calibration/validation of remote sensors and to monitor the spread of plastic pollution and other marine debris. IMDOS will interact with other observing systems monitoring physical, chemical, and biological processes in the ocean and on shorelines as well as state of the ecosystem, maritime activities and safety, drift of sea ice, etc. The synthesized data will support innovative multi-disciplinary research and serve diverse community of users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number447
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Antropogenic debris
  • Marine debris
  • Marine debris drift
  • Marine litter
  • Microplastics
  • Observing network design
  • Plastic pollution
  • Plastics
  • Sensor development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Ocean Engineering


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