Plastic ingestion by seabirds in the circumpolar arctic: A review

Julia E. Baak*, Jannie F. Linnebjerg, Tom Barry, Maria V. Gavrilo, Mark L. Mallory, Courtney Price, Jennifer F. Provencher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Plastic pollution is a ubiquitous global environmental problem. Plastic ingestion by seabirds is an increasing issue even in remote areas, such as the Arctic, yet research and monitoring of plastic ingestion in Arctic seabird populations is limited, and there are large knowledge gaps for many geographic regions. There is currently no standard technique for monitoring plastic debris in the Arctic, making it difficult to compare studies and monitor global trends. Here, we review the current state of knowledge of plastic ingestion by seabirds in the Arctic. We analyzed 38 published records that report plastic ingestion by seabirds in the Arctic region. Of the 51 seabird species examined for plastic ingestion in the Arctic, over half have ingested plastic; however, the majority have a limited number of studies, small sample sizes, and (or) data are more than 15 years old. Additionally, the spatial distribution of plastic ingestion reports in the Arctic varies widely, with large knowledge gaps in the northernmost areas of most countries. This indicates that we lack recent information on plastic ingestion for most of the seabird species in the Arctic. Further, less than one-third of studies reference standardized methods from other regions, making it difficult to assess spatial and temporal trends. Long-term monitoring programs should be established in the Arctic to obtain an accurate assessment of plastic ingestion by seabirds in this region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-516
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved.

Other keywords

  • Arctic
  • Marine debris
  • Method standardization
  • Plastic pollution
  • Seabirds


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