Leverage points for addressing marine and coastal pollution: A review

Research output: Journal contributionsScientific review articlesResearch


Despite an increasing understanding of the issue of marine pollution, humanity continues on a largely unsustainable trajectory. This study aimed to identify and classify the range of scientific studies and interventions to address coastal and marine pollution. We reviewed 2417 scientific papers published between 2000 and 2018, 741 of which we analysed in depth. To classify pollution interventions, we applied the systems-oriented concept of leverage points, which focuses on places to intervene in complex systems to bring about systemic change. We found that pollution is largely studied as a technical problem and fewer studies engage with pollution as a systemic social-ecological issue. While recognising the importance of technical solutions, we highlight the need to focus on under-researched areas pertaining to the deeper drivers of pollution (e.g. institutions, values) which are needed to fundamentally alter system trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112263
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2021

Bibliographical note

We thank Stefan Hilser and Julius Rathgens for their methodological advice. This work was supported by the prolongation of the Leverage points project funded by Volkswagenstiftung and the Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur (Grant Number A112269 ). AOM was funded by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to Achim Schlüter and Anna-Katharina Hornidge.

    Research areas

  • Environmental planning
  • Marine debris, Marine litter, Oil spills, Plastics, Social-ecological systems, Sustainability transformations, Environmental Monitoring, Ecosystem, Environmental Pollution, Waste Products/analysis