Scientia Marina, Vol 80, No S1 (2016)

Microfouling communities from pelagic and benthic marine plastic debris sampled across Mediterranean coastal waters

Mercedes Masó
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC , Spain

José Manuel Fortuño
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC , Spain

Silvia de Juan
Centro de Conservación Marina, Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile , Spain

Montserrat Demestre
Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC , Spain


The present study used scanning electron microscopy to characterize the organisms colonizing marine plastic debris collected from pelagic and benthic habitats across Mediterranean coastal waters of Greece, Italy and Spain. A total of 42 fragments of plastic were collected during the COMSOM experimental cruise, 16 from the seafloor and 26 from surface waters. The results showed that diatoms were the most abundant organisms on both pelagic and benthic plastics. The diatom Ceratoneis closterium, frequently observed on surface plastics (73%), is a harmful microalgae associated with mucilage events in the Mediterranean. The abundance of marine plastic in coastal and oceanic waters may provide new habitats that offer an easy substrate for these invasive organisms. Furthermore, the colonization of these new environments might reduce the success of life strategies, or drive the organisms out of their essential habitat by dispersion and rafting phenomena. The results of the present work highlight the need to increase our knowledge of the consequences of colonization of plastics introduced into the marine environment, and the need to raise awareness of the potential impacts of debris accumulation on biodiversity of marine ecosystems.


scanning electron microscope; marine plastic debris; biofouling; northern Mediterranean Sea

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