Tuesday, January 3, 2023

THREEFOLD INCREASE IN MICROPLASTIC CONCENTRATIONS IN WATER SINCE 2000

Plastic pollution has been observed all over the world. Plastic is the most common debris. It is also seen floating on the world’s seafloors. More than 10 million tonnes of plastics enter oceans all over the world every year. Sunlight and waves break most of it down into smaller particles called microplastics. These are fragments smaller than 5 millimeters, roughly the size of a sesame seed.

Due to their small size, microplastics can be taken in by trophic level organisms. This transfers harmful, toxic substances inside organisms' body.
 This can be harmful to marine organisms. The impacts of plastic pollution on marine life and complications for human health are the point of concern to save lives. So, it is important to determine where they accumulate in order to decrease the global ocean threats.

A team of researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (AUB) and Aalborg University studied western Mediterranean Sea, Ebro Delta. Rivers are known to be the point for various pollutants, including microplastics, so it was a better place for experiment.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) showed that the microplastics entering oceans remained unchanged in marine sediments from 1965 and now the amount of microplastics on ocean floors has tripled.



Researchers have uncovered the highest-ever concentration of microplastics on the seafloor. According to a new study in the journal Science, scientists recently found 1.9 million pieces in an area of about 11 square feet in the Mediterranean Sea

ICTA-AUB researcher Laura Simon-Sánchez said:



“Specifically, the results show that, since 2000, the number of plastic particles deposited on the seafloor has tripled and that, far from decreasing, the accumulation has not stopped growing mimicking the production and global use of these materials.”

AUB professor Patrizia Ziveri explained:

“The process of fragmentation takes place mostly in the beach sediments, on the sea surface or in the water column. Once deposited, degradation is minimal, so plastics from the 1960s remain on the seabed, leaving the signature of human pollution there.”

Researchers Justine Barrett, Chris Wilcox, and their team at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an Australian Government agency, calculated the amount of microplastics in the Great Australian Bight, an ocean in the south of Australia, a home to many marine species. Researchers used a remotely operated vehicle to collect samples from around 1600 to 3000 meters deep in the ocean. Afterwards, they filtered and purified these ocean samples to calculate the amount of plastic they contained.


Through microscope images, the CSIRO team counted the number of microplastic particles in different samples and based on the amount they collected from this region, they estimated that about 14 million tons of microplastic are found on the whole ocean floor.



Global microplastic concentrations tend to peak in the North Atlantic and Pacific during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months. June and July, for example, are the peak months for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.





In previous studies, they found higher microplastic amounts because studies were conducted in coastal areas with higher population. The samples collected resulted in more pollution and contamination.

Team collected microplastic from a more remote location, so their total count was lower and provided more conservative estimate.

Principal research scientist Denise Hardesty quoted:

"Our research found that the deep ocean is a sink for microplastics. We were surprised to observe high microplastic loads in such a remote location."

Observing the adverse effects of Microplastics on aquatic ecosystem, wildlife as well as human health, Hardesty called for action to find solutions to ocean plastic pollution.

"Government, industry and the community need to work together to significantly reduce the amount of litter we see along our beaches and in our oceans." she said.

The steps are to be taken to reduce seafloor plastic debris in order to protect the food chain and for safe environment.

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