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AMAP: Litter and Microplastics Monitoring Guidelines

Reviewing existing knowledge and providing guidance for designing an Arctic monitoring program that will track litter and microplastics

Published 05.01.22

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is one of six Working Groups of the Arctic Council. AMAP has a mandate to monitor and assess the status and trends of contaminants in the Arctic.

Since its establishment in 1991, AMAP has produced a series of high quality reports and related communication products that detail the status of the Arctic with respect to climate and pollution issues and that include policy-relevant science-based advice to the Arctic Council and governments.

Litter and Microplastics Monitoring Guidelines

While the Arctic Ecosystem is already stressed by the effects of the climate crisis, another threat is emerging: plastics. Plastic pollution has become an environmental issue of the highest concern world-wide, and the plastic pollution tide is also rising in the Arctic.

Plastics are polymers, substances made of large molecules. They never completely disappear, only breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastics are often coated with various chemicals; they can attract chemical substances that can then be released when they degrade. Therefore, microplastics (MPs) and attached substances both keep on accumulating in the environment, having a never-ending physically and chemically negative impact on ecosystems, species and communities.

The objectives of the guidelines are to:

  1. support litter and MP baseline mapping in the Arctic across a wide range of environmental compartments to allow spatial and temporal comparisons in the coming years;
  2. initiate monitoring to generate data to assess temporal and spatial trends;
  3. recommend that Arctic countries develop and implement monitoring nationally via community-based programs and other mechanisms, in the context of a pan-Arctic program;
  4. provide data that can be used with the Marine Litter Regional Action Plan (ML-RAP) to assess the effectiveness of mitigation strategies;
  5. act as a catalyst for future work in the Arctic related to biological effects of plastics, including determining environmentally relevant concentrations and informing cumulative effects
  6. identify areas in which research and development are needed from an Arctic perspective; and
  7. provide recommendations for monitoring programs whose data will feed into future global assessments to track litter and MP in the environment.

Photo credit:

Adam Rheborg