Microplastics have spread right to the sea bed, study finds

microplastic

(Brian Yurasits, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Senior Writer, Formative Content


Microplastics are pervasive from the surface to the seafloor and are probably entering the food chain.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of plastic debris measuring less than 5 millimeters across carried out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Monterey Bay Aquarium. And it means the scale of pollution could be larger than previously estimated, with more microplastic found hundreds of metres down than in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world.

Using underwater robots to filter seawater, the researchers found around the same amount of microplastic particles near the surface as in the deepest waters they surveyed. Perhaps more startling, they found roughly four times the concentration in the midwater range than in waters near the surface.

And microplastics were discovered in all the animals sampled as part of the study, suggesting the material is entering the food chain via marine animals such as pelagic crabs and giant larvaceans.

 Microplastics are entering the food chain.

Microplastics are entering the food chain.
Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium

“Our findings buttress a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to the waters and animals of the deep sea, Earth’s largest habitat, as the biggest repository of small plastic debris,” said Anela Choy, the lead author of the paper, and an assistant professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

While the volume of plastic waste in our oceans has become a hot topic, most focus has been on the more visible trash – beer can packaging tangling up turtles, and whales eating carrier bags. Microplastics are harder to pin down as they’re often invisible to the naked eye.

With more than 3 billion people relying on the ocean for jobs and food, protecting and keeping it clean is imperative. Friends of Ocean Action, a group of more than 50 global leaders convened by the World Economic Forum and World Resources Institute, seeks to find solutions.

It wants to stop growth in plastic pollution by 2025 by demonstrating “investable and scalable” circular economy solutions in three coastal economies by 2020, and it hopes these can be adapted and implemented globally.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the oceans?

Our oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface and account for 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. We can’t have a healthy future without healthy oceans – but they’re more vulnerable than ever because of climate change and pollution.

Tackling the grave threats to our oceans means working with leaders across sectors, from business to government to academia.

The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute, convenes the Friends of Ocean Action, a coalition of leaders working together to protect the seas. From a programme with the Indonesian government to cut plastic waste entering the sea to a global plan to track illegal fishing, the Friends are pushing for new solutions.

Climate change is an inextricable part of the threat to our oceans, with rising temperatures and acidification disrupting fragile ecosystems. The Forum runs a number of initiatives to support the shift to a low-carbon economy, including hosting the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, who have cut emissions in their companies by 9%.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

The scientists from Monterey Bay Aquarium also said cutting plastic pollution was the only real way to stop microplastics entering the deep ocean and food chain.

Their research used underwater robots with sampling devices to filter plastic particles out of seawater at two different locations and at various depths in Monterey Bay. In addition to sampling the water, the researchers also looked at concentrations of microplastic particles in specimens of two marine species that filter-feed: pelagic red crabs and giant larvaceans.

 A robot filter looks for microplastics in the ocean.

A robot filter looks for microplastics in the ocean.
Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium

 

That has wide-ranging implications since both those species are critical parts of the ocean food web. Pelagic red crabs are consumed by many species of fish, including tuna.

Another surprising finding was the fact that consumer plastics were found most abundantly.

 There's more plastic in the deep ocean than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

There’s more plastic in the deep ocean than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium

“This suggests that most of the particles did not originate from local fishing gear,” said Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium and one of the study’s co-authors. “It also suggests that at least some of the microplastic was transported into the area by ocean currents.”

The authors said more research is needed at other deep-water locations, to find out how widespread microplastics really are.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Access and hesitancy as major challenges surrounding covid-19 vaccination campaigns

Why climate change matters for future health professionals

UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive

MEPs back EU partnership agreement with Armenia

Can we ensure patients’ safety without taking care of healthcare workers?

George Floyd: these are the injustices that led to the protests in the United States

State aid: Commission approves €1.1 billion Polish scheme to further support companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Climate change update: consistent global actions urgently needed as we are running out of time

Colombia’s former president says COVID-19 shows the importance of listening to indigenous peoples on how we treat the planet

Remittances could fall by $100 billion because of COVID-19 – here’s why that matters

Database of businesses linked to Israeli settlements ‘important initial step’ towards accountability: rights expert

This study wants every child in the UK to spend a night under the stars

Guinea-Bissau: Upcoming elections vital to prevent ‘relapse’ into instability, says UN envoy

Greenery: the miracle cure for urban living

Gender Equality in Medicine: are we now so different from the Middle Ages?

Sustainability, peace, security ‘best guarantee against instability’ Guterres to Security Council

To build the workforce of the future, we need to revolutionize how we learn

The International Women’s Day 2031

COP25: MEPs push for CO2 neutrality by 2050

6 ways social innovators are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus: The truth against the myths

ECB is about to lend trillions to banks

UN General Assembly celebrates 20 years of promoting a culture of peace

Except Poland, can climate change also wait until 2021 for the EU Market Stability Reserve to be launched?

A Brussels antithesis reveals where the EU is heading

UN welcomes ‘record’ Brussels conference pledge of nearly $7 billion to support Syrians

Yemen: Escalation in fighting must stop ‘before it’s too late’, Griffiths tells Security Council

14 innovative projects helping to save the planet and make the world a better place

Why flexible workspaces are the key to winning the talent war

Eurozone slowly but surely builds its Banking Union

Mountains matter, especially if you’re young, UN declares

Azeri natural gas will keep the EU warm soon

AI can help with the COVID-19 crisis – but the right human input is key

‘Do something’; UN relief chief urges Security Council action to stop the Syrian carnage unfolding ‘in front of your eyes’

JADE Spring Meeting 2017 – day 3: JADE Academy trainings, networking session and gala dinner – Excellence Awards winners revealed

Over 820 million people suffering from hunger; new UN report reveals stubborn realities of ‘immense’ global challenge

5 ways to make your organization a great sustainability partner

‘Deteriorating’ human rights in Belarus amounts to ‘wholescale oppression’: UN expert

UN chief welcomes ‘first concrete step’ in normalizing Eritrea-Ethiopia relationship

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs call for more clarity and transparency

State aid: Commission approves a Polish scheme to compensate large companies for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak and provide liquidity support

UN Convention that promotes mediation to resolve trade disputes moves closer to entry into force

More women in Latin America are working, but gender gap persists, new UN figures show

Good grub: why we might be eating insects soon

EUREKA @ European Business Summit 2014: A European patent system can help European businesses lead industrial research and innovation on a global scale

Terrorism ‘spreading and destabilizing’ entire regions, Guterres warns States, at key Kenya conference

Further reforms in France can drive growth, improve public finances and boost social cohesion

All for equality – 2020 is a pivotal year for Gender Equality

Questions and answers: Commission proposes SURE, a new temporary instrument worth up to €100 billion to help protect jobs and people in work

It’s getting harder to move data abroad. Here’s why it matters and what we can do

Parliament demands ban on neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups in the EU

EU farm policy reform: Council must be more flexible – we cannot waste more time

Coronavirus is creating retirement insecurity. These 10 steps can diffuse the timebomb of an ageing population

London wants new skyscrapers to protect cyclists from wind tunnels

EU ready to relinquish its internal tax havens

One Day in Beijing

The US reject EU proposal for prudential financial controls

Industrial producer prices on free fall and stagnant output

China by numbers: 10 facts to help you understand the superpower today

Car-free day – and the other 364 days of the year

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Microplastics have spread right to the sea bed, study finds. [online] The European Sting. Available here. [Accessed in 12 March […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s