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Increasing risk of invasions by organisms on plastic pollution in the Southeast coast of India

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This is the first documentation of plastic pollution in the ocean as a vector for species dispersal in Indian waters. Seventeen encrusting species belonging to 7 phyla were found on plastic pollution. The invasive mussel species found suggests that plastic pollution can increase the risk of invasions. Plastic pollution was demonstrated to be a vector for the long-distance dispersal of marine species.

Abstract: Increasing amount of anthropogenic litter in the marine environment has provided an enormous number of substrates for a wide range of marine organisms, thus serving as a potential vector for the transport of fouling organisms. Here, we examined the fouling organisms on different types of stranded litter (plastic, glass, rubber, foam sponge, cloth, metal and wood) on eight beaches along the southeast coast of India. In total, 17 encrusting species belonging to seven phyla (Arthropoda, Bryozoa, Mollusca, Annelida, Cnidaria, Chlorophyta and Foraminifera) were identified on 367 items, with one invasive species, the mussel Mytella strigata, detected. The most common species associated with marine litter were the cosmopolitan bryozoans Jellyella tuberculata (%O = 31.64 %) and J. eburnea (28.61 %), the barnacle species Lepas anserifera (29.97 %), Amphibalanus amphitrite (22.34 %) and Amphibalanus sp. (14.16 %), and the oyster species Saccostrea cucullata (13.62 %) and Magallana bilineata (5.44 %). We also reported the first records on stranded litter of four species: the gastropod species Pirenella cingulata and Umbonium vestiarium, the foraminiferan Ammonia beccarii, and the oyster M. bilineata. This study is thus the first documentation of marine litter as a vector for species dispersal in India, where the production and consumption of plastic rank among the highest in the world. We also highlight the increasing risk of invasions by non-indigenous organisms attached to debris along the southeast coast of India. Comprehensive monitoring efforts are thus needed to elucidate the type of vectors responsible for the arrival of invasive species in this region. Raising awareness and promoting education are vital components in fostering sustainable solutions to combat plastic pollution in the country and globally.

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