Seagrass collects up to 900 million plastic items in the Mediterranean Sea each year

There is strong evidence that the seafloor constitutes a final sink for plastics from land sources. There is also evidence that part of the plastics lying on the shallow seafloor are washed up back to the shoreline. However, little is known on the natural trapping processes leading to such landwards return. Here we investigate microplastics and larger plastic debris within beached seagrass remains including balls (aegagropilae) made of natural aggregates of vegetal fibers intertwined by seawater motion. We found up to 1470 plastic items per kg of plant material, which were mainly composed of negatively buoyant polymer filaments and fibers. Our findings show that seagrass meadows promote plastic debris trapping and aggregation with natural lignocellulosic fibers, which are then ejected and escape the coastal ocean. Our results show how seagrasses, one of the key ecosystems on Earth in terms of provision of goods and services, also counteract marine plastic pollution. In view of our findings, the regression of seagrass meadows in some marine regions acquires a new dimension.