Animals and Plants Now Live on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

It’s the world’s largest accumulation of marine plastic, covering 610,000 square miles or three times the size of France, and it seems like a near-impossible place for life to thrive.

But scientists have found that the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ has indeed been colonized by animals and plants, all of which have found new ways to survive in the open ocean.

Researchers said the floating debris mass created opportunities for coastal species such as anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods “to grow much further than we previously thought was possible.”

It’s a hard life: Scientists have discovered the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ has been colonized by animals and plants, all of which have found a new way to survive in the open ocean

Researchers said the floating mass of debris created opportunities for coastal species such as anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods

Researchers said the floating mass of debris created opportunities for coastal species such as anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods “to go much further than we previously thought was possible”

WHAT ARE MICROPLASTICS AND HOW DO THEY GET INTO OUR WATERWAYS?

Microplastics are plastic particles less than five millimeters (0.2 inches).

They have made headlines in recent years as improper disposal has resulted in tons of trash ending up in the ocean.

Every year, tons of plastic waste are not recycled and processed correctly, which can mean that they end up in marine ecosystems.

While it’s unclear exactly how they end up in the water, microplastics can get in through simple everyday wear and tear on clothing and carpets.

Tumble dryers can also be a source, especially if they have a vent to the open air.

Plastics do not break down for thousands of years and it is estimated that there are already millions of pieces of plastic waste in the oceans. This number is expected to increase.

Studies have also shown that each washing machine cycle can release 700,000 plastic fibers into the atmosphere.

Current water systems are unable to effectively filter out all microplastic pollution due to the varying size of particles.

The amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans will exceed that of fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to further recycle, a 2016 report found.

More than 80 percent of the world’s tap water is contaminated with plastic, according to research published in September 2017.

The US has the highest infection rate at 93 percent, followed by Lebanon and India, experts at the University of Minnesota found.

France, Germany and the UK have the lowest levels but still top out at 72 percent.

In total, 83 percent of water samples from dozens of countries around the world contain microplastics.

Scientists warn that microplastics are so small they can penetrate organs.

Bottled water may not be a safer alternative, as scientists have found contaminated samples.

Creatures of all shapes and sizes have been found to have consumed the plastics, either directly or indirectly.

Previous research has also shown that microplastics absorb toxic chemicals, which are then released into the intestines of animals.

The world has at least five plastic-contaminated gyres, or “garbage spots,” but the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, between California and Hawaii, contains the most floating debris with an estimated 79,000 tons of plastic.

While “garbage spot” is a misnomer — much of the pollution is made up of microplastics, too small to see with the naked eye — floating debris like nets, buoys and bottles are also swept into the gyres, pushing organisms out of their homes. carry with them on the coast.

Scientists first began to suspect that coastal species could use plastic to survive for long periods in the open ocean after the 2011 Japanese tsunami, when they found that nearly 300 species had braided all the way across the Pacific over the course of several years. on debris from the tsunami.

But until now, confirmed sightings of coastal species on plastic directly in the open ocean have been rare.

“The problems of plastic go beyond ingestion and entanglement,” said lead author Linsey Haram, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC).

“It creates opportunities for coastal species biogeography to go much further than we previously thought possible.”

Gyres of ocean plastic form when surface currents drive plastic pollution from the coasts to areas where rotating currents trap the floating objects, which accumulate over time.

The authors call these communities neopelagic. ‘Neo’ means new, and ‘pelagic’ refers to the open ocean, as opposed to the coast.

For the study, Haram collaborated with two oceanographers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who created models that could predict where plastic was most likely to accumulate in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

This information was then shared with the Ocean Voyages Institute, a non-profit organization that collects plastic pollution during sailing expeditions.

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ocean Voyages Institute founder Mary Crowley and her team collected 103 tons of plastic and other waste from the subtropical gyre in the North Pacific.

She sent some of those samples to SERC’s Marine Invasions Lab for analysis.

Haram then looked at the species that had colonized them and found many coastal species — including anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods — not only survive, but also thrive on marine plastic.

“Until now, the open ocean has not been habitable for coastal organisms,” said SERC senior scientist Greg Ruiz, head of the Marine Invasions Lab.

“Partly because of habitat restriction — there used to be no plastic there — and partly, we thought, because it was a food desert.”

Plastic now provides the habitat, but researchers are still stunned at how coastal spruce find food.

They think it could be that the animals and plants drifting into existing hot spots of productivity in the gyre, or because the plastic itself acts like a reef attracting more food sources.

What worries scientists now is the impact these new coastal trusses could have on the existing environment.

The open ocean already has many of its own native species that colonize floating debris, raising concerns that ocean ecosystems left undisturbed for millennia may now be disrupted by the arrival of coastal organisms.

“Coastal species compete directly with these oceanic trusses,” Haram said.

Researchers looked at what had colonized the marine plastic and found many coastal species — including anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods — that not only survive, but thrive.

Researchers looked at what had colonized the marine plastic and found many coastal species — including anemones, hydroids and shrimp-like amphipods — that not only survive, but thrive.

“They compete for space. They compete for resources. And those interactions are very poorly understood.’

There are also fears that invasive species may invade coastlines after floating in the ocean for years.

One such scenario is already starting to play out, with Japanese tsunami debris transporting organisms from Japan to North America.

‘These other coasts are not just city centers…. That opportunity extends to more remote areas, protected areas, Hawaiian Islands, national parks, marine protected areas,” Ruiz said.

Researchers said they still don’t know how common these “neopelagic” communities are, or whether they can sustain themselves, but the world’s reliance on plastic continues to grow.

Scientists estimate that the cumulative global plastic waste could exceed 25 billion tons by 2050.

With heavier and more frequent storms on the horizon due to climate change, the authors expect even more of that plastic to be pushed out to sea.

This would allow colonies of coastal trusses to continue to grow in the open ocean, with the long-term impact that it could alter life on land and sea, the researchers said.

The study is published in the journal nature communication.

DEEP-SEA DEBRIS DATABASE REVEALS THE LEVEL OF PLASTIC POLLUTION OF THE OCEAN

Plastic pollution is a scourge that plagues the surface of our planet. Now the polluting polymer is sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

The deepest part of the ocean is found in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Mariana Islands. It extends nearly 36,100 feet (11,000 meters) below the surface.

One plastic bag was found 35,754 feet (10,898 meters) below the surface in this region, the deepest known piece of man-made pollution in the world. This single-use piece of plastic was found deeper than 33 Eiffel Towers, laid point-to-point, would reach.

While plastic pollution is sinking rapidly, it is also spreading further into the middle of the oceans. A piece of plastic was found more than 620 miles (1,000 km) from the nearest coast – that’s further than the length of France.

The Global Oceanographic Data Center (Godac) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec) was launched for public use in March 2017.

This database contains the data from 5,010 different dives. Of all these different dives, 3,425 man-made debris items were counted.

More than 33 percent of the waste was macroplastic, followed by metal (26 percent), rubber (1.8 percent), fishing gear (1.7 percent), glass (1.4 percent), fabric/paper/wood (1, 3 percent). percent) and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 percent).

It was also discovered that 89 percent of all waste found was intended for single use. This is defined as plastic bags, bottles and packaging. The deeper the study looked, the greater the amount of plastic they found.

Of all man-made objects found deeper than 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), the proportions rose to 52 percent for macroplastics and 92 percent for single-use plastics.

The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment can be clearly seen, as deep-sea organisms were seen in the 17 percent of the plastic waste images captured by the study.

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