Document Type


Date of Award

Fall 10-31-1996

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Policy Studies - (M.S.)


Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Nancy L. Jackson

Second Advisor

John Opie

Third Advisor

Norbert Elliot


A field investigation was conducted on an estuarine shoreline in Raritan Bay, New Jersey to identify the temporal and spatial distribution changes in accumulation of marine debris, and the factors that influence these changes. Methodology consists of 12-monthly collections of debris and profile data, and collection of local climatological and tide data. Debris was classified by type, length, weight, fragmentation, and probable function and weathering noted for each collected item. Wind roses were constructed to determine dominant wind speed and direction and wind characteristics for time intervals between field sampling.

Plastics are the primary component of debris; glass and styrofoam are common. Debris was small, light, and fragmented, and 74.2% of plastics were consumer-related. Beach usage appears to be the main source of debris but winds may transport wrack debris < 5.0 g beyond wrack lines. A cross-shore pattern of spatial distribution of debris exists due to movement by wrack lines and high onshore wind speeds and wind direction. Debris type, sub-environments, beach elevation and debris weight influence cross-shore movement. Larger quantities found in the western portion of the beach compartment may be due to beach use, longshore transport of debris or both.



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