This week a mansucript I lead was published in the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment (here). In this comment article, my co-authors and I, acknowledge the pervasiveness of plastic pollution and challenge the research community to think creatively about how we can better link plastic ingestion research with wildlife conservation efforts. This is an essential step in an increasingly polluted world, and will enable the development of tools to better predict and manage the impacts of plastic ingestion on vulnerable marine wildlife species.
Plastic is an increasingly pervasive marine pollutant. Concomitantly, the number of studies documenting plastic ingestion in wildlife is accelerating. Many of these studies aim to provide a baseline against which future levels of plastic ingestion can be compared, and are motivated by an underlying interest in the conservation of their study species and ecosystems. Although this research has helped to raise the profile of plastic as a pollutant of emerging concern, there is a disconnect between research examining plastic pollution and wildlife conservation. We present ideas to further discussion about how plastic ingestion research could benefit wildlife conservation by prioritising studies that elucidates the significance of plastic pollution as a population-level threat, identifies vulnerable populations, and evaluates strategies for mitigating impacts. The benefit of plastic ingestion research to marine wildlife can be improved by establishing a clearer understanding of how discoveries will be integrated into conservation and policy actions.