A quantitative analysis linking seabird mortality and marine debris ingestion

TitleA quantitative analysis linking seabird mortality and marine debris ingestion
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsRoman, L, Hardesty, BDenise, Hindell, MA, Wilcox, C
JournalScientific Reports
Date Published03/2019
ISBN Number2045-2322

Procellariiformes are the most threatened bird group globally, and the group with the highest frequency of marine debris ingestion. Marine debris ingestion is a globally recognized threat to marine biodiversity, yet the relationship between how much debris a bird ingests and mortality remains poorly understood. Using cause of death data from 1733 seabirds of 51 species, we demonstrate a significant relationship between ingested debris and a debris-ingestion cause of death (dose-response). There is a 20.4% chance of lifetime mortality from ingesting a single debris item, rising to 100% after consuming 93 items. Obstruction of the gastro-intestinal tract is the leading cause of death. Overall, balloons are the highest-risk debris item; 32 times more likely to result in death than ingesting hard plastic. These findings have significant implications for quantifying seabird mortality due to debris ingestion, and provide identifiable policy targets aimed to reduce mortality for threatened species worldwide.