ASR - A Global Partner for the Sustainable Management of Coastal and Marine Resources

Oceanic Plastic Pollution Modeling And Awareness

Type of Project: Oceanic Pollution Modeling Project

Client: Seathos Foundation

ASR Projects- Oceanic Plastic Pollution Modeling And Awareness

A collaborative initiative to understand and reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans

Project Overview:

Plastic pollution in the oceans represents a major global environmental challenge. At a global scale, man-made debris has been observed to accumulate in remote areas of the ocean in large circulating gyres. The source of this plastic is assumed to be land based but little is known about how the relative contribution of the various land sources to each gyre. Similarly there are many open questions as to the ultimate fate of the debris and the length of time debris remain in the gyres. In partnership with the Seathos Foundation, ASR generated scientific numerical models of plastic pollution debris in the South Atlantic Gyre. These models were calibrated with data from a United Nations Environment Program-sponsored transatlantic research voyage.

Project Outcomes:

ASR used large-scale hydrodynamic models to simulate global oceanic circulation. This was used to drive ‘particles’ released on coastal cells in the model to observe their oceanic pathways. The hydrodynamic data used to drive the model was downloaded from the HYCOM model database and formatted for use with ASR’s 3DD Suite. A global human impacts study was used to define the density of particles released at the coast. The initial model in the project was used to simulate the Atlantic Ocean bounded by 78S to 90N and 101W to 42E (for latitudes below 47N). 6 years of HYCOM current data were downloaded for this region and added to a 3DD hydrodynamic file. By looping this file a 25-year hydrodynamic simulation was created. Particles were released in the model domain and tracked over the 25-year simulation. The oceanic gyres are clearly visible in the results and the model has been used extensive follow-up studies identifying the relative contributions of the various sources to each gyre.

To spread awareness of plastic pollution on a global scale, ASR partnered with the Sea•thos Foundation, Hurley, Brandon Boyd from Incubus, and 5Gyres to host a series of awareness events. Supplementing these events, this collaborative group is creating an online media campaign, a clothing line, and online and classroom educational tools to further awareness of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

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