Marine litter, and plastic in particular, constitutes an environmental problem of growing concern. One of the major factors determining litter distribution, accumulation and fate is ocean motion. In coastal areas, hydrodynamics is characterized by a complex interaction of multiscale processes in which energy inputs from the atmosphere are balanced with dissipation on the coast and the seabed. This results in specific dynamical characteristics which spatial and temporal features cover a wide range of scales that differ from those of the open ocean.


The aim of this project is to further understand the role of oceanic transport in marine litter (microplastics and meso/macrolitter) dispersion and accumulation areas in the sea surface, along the water column and over the seafloor. With special emphasis on coastal zones and in the range of scales from 1 m to 10 km, where the vertical motions by marine currents play a relevant role. Focusing on the distribution of marine litter by ocean currents, we propose an approach that combines ocean-current structures, oceanographic campaigns, and new Lagrangian tools from complex systems to characterize marine connectivity and mixing properties in coastal waters.

Scientific and societal impact

LAMARCA project will contribute to the fundamental knowledge about the Lagrangian dynamics in three dimensional oceanic flows and the submesoscale impact on the transport of material from the sea surface to the ocean interior, in particular in coastal waters. This project will bring an essential breakthrough contribution to the effort of understanding marine litter and microplastic dynamics, distribution and dispersion through the surface, water column and over the seafloor.

LAMARCA will contribute to enhancing science-based decision-making for marine management. Marine litter accumulation has become a growing concern worldwide and European countries are among the first ones to ring the alarm. The knowledge of the distribution of plastics in the ocean and its ecological impact is very timely, being considered one of the societal objectives of the 2021-2030 UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development of a clean and safe ocean.

LAMARCA results will be useful for local authorities that are in charge of marine litter management.




AZTI, CSIC, Universitat de les Illes Balears


Grant PID2021-123352OB-C33 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and by ERDF A way of making Europe

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