We hypothesize that floating debris leaving polluted coastal bays accumulate on nearby pristine beaches. We examined composition, quantities and distribution of marine debris along ∼150 km of relatively undeveloped, tropical beaches in Costa do Dendê (Bahia, Brazil). The study site is located south of Salvador City, the largest urban settlement from NE Brazil. Strong spatial variations were observed. Plastics accounted for 76% of the sampled items, followed by styrofoam (14%). Small plastic fragments resultant from the breakdown of larger items are ubiquitous all over the area. Because the dominant littoral drift in Bahia is southward, average beach debris densities (9.1 items/m) along Costa do Dendê were threefold higher than densities previously observed north of Salvador City. River-dominated and stable beaches had higher debris quantities than unstable, erosional beaches. Areas immediately south of the major regional embayments (Camamu and Todos os Santos) were the preferential accumulation sites, indicating that rivers draining populous areas are the major source of debris to the study site. Our results provide baseline information for future assessments. Management actions should focus on input prevention at the hydrographic basin level rather than on cleaning services on beaches
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