Biosecurity implications of drifting marine plastic debris: current knowledge and future research.
The introduction and spread of marine non-indigenous species (NIS) and pathogens into new habitats are a major threat to biodiversity, ecosystem services, human health, and can have substantial economic consequences. Shipping is considered the main vector for marine biological invasions; less well understood is the increased spread of marine NIS and pathogens rafting on marine plastic debris (MPD). Despite an increasing research interest and recent progress in characterizing the plastisphere, this manuscript highlights critical knowledge gaps and research priorities towards a better understanding of the biosecurity implications of MPD. We advocate for future research to (i) investigate plastisphere community succession and the factors influencing NIS propagules and pathogens recruitment through robust experimental investigations; (ii) combine microscopy and molecular approaches to effectively assess the presence of specific taxa; (iii) include additional genetic markers to thoroughly characterize the biodiversity associated with MPD and explore the presence of specific marine pests.