Land cover type modulates the distribution of litter in a Nordic cultural landscape
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionEide, S. K. K., Leh, L. N., Eines, K. S., Hovland, I., By, M., Ingvaldsen, E. W., Tinlund, M., Eremita, E., Machado, L. A., Brønner, S., Nilsen, E. B. & Steyaert, S. (2022). Land cover type modulates the distribution of litter in a Nordic cultural landscape. PLOS ONE, 17(11). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0275463
Litter pollution is a global environmental problem that occurs in virtually all ecosystems. Scientific research on anthropogenic litter and its environmental impacts focusses predominantly on plastics and the marine environment. Little empirical knowledge exists about the distribution and ecological impacts of litter in terrestrial environments, where most litter is produced. To start closing that knowledge gap, we investigated the distribution of litter in a cultural landscape in central Norway and in relation to land cover types. We registered and collected litter in 110 survey plots that were randomly stratified across various land cover types. Our results show that land cover type modulates the occurrence, abundance, fragments size, and that litter is most present and abundant in or near land cover types associated with high human activities. Plastic was by far the most common litter material type, although the litter community (in terms of materials type) was not independent from land cover type. This knowledge can help to inform and optimize litter management and clean-up activities in terrestrial landscapes. How and to what extent the spatial structure of the litter community mediates ecological effects across various land cover types remains unknown to a large extent and warrants further study.