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.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the sting Milestone

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

Non-performing loans: banks need to mitigate the risk of potential losses

The Schengen area is at a crossroads

Children are still dying in Yemen war, despite partial ceasefire, says UNICEF chief

From DIY editing to matchmaking by DNA: how human genomics is changing society

Here are five things to know about the future of being human

Security Council imposes arms embargo on South Sudan

A giant marine heatwave has descended on Alaska

UN health agency identifies 5-year-old Congolese boy as first confirmed case of Ebola in Uganda

‘Much more’ can be done to raise awareness about the plight of persons with albinism: UN chief

Biggest ever UN aid delivery in Syria provides relief to desperate civilians

DR Congo: Ebola claims over 1,000 lives, Guterres commits ‘whole’ UN system, to help ‘end the outbreak’

What we need for a better European Solidarity Corps

Why business can no longer turn a blind eye to poor vision

South Eurozone urgently needs fairer distribution of taxation burden

MWC 2016 LIVE: 5G to trigger disruption, claim industry leaders

European Border and Coast Guard: 10 000-strong standing corps by 2027

‘Collective endeavour’ needed to strengthen peacekeeping further, says top UN official

Financing the 2030 Agenda: What is it and why is it important?

Brexit: The Conservative Party drives the UK and Europe to a perilous road

The Swiss will pay dearly for voting out fellow Europeans

The third bailout agreement for Greece is a done deal amid European economies full of problems

South African women’s fury at gender-based attacks spills onto the streets

Mali: ‘Dire’ humanitarian situation, ‘grave’ security concerns challenge fragile peace

UN welcomes Angola’s repeal of anti-gay law, and ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation

Dual Food Quality: Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products

Tsipras imposes more austerity on insolvent Greece; plans to win new early election soon

Tax Inspectors Without Borders making significant progress toward strengthening developing countries’ ability to effectively tax multinational enterprises

The ECB still protects the banks at the expense of the EU taxpayers

‘We must fight terrorism together’ without sacrificing legal and human rights, declares UN chief

European elections: A chance to repel both nationalism and no-deal Brexit

Financial transactions tax gets go ahead

Industrial policy: recommendations to support Europe’s leadership in six strategic business areas

EU members commit to build an integrated gas market and finally cut dependency on Russia

The Netherlands is paying people to cycle to work

Aid stepped up to Syria camp; new arrivals say terrorists blocked their escape

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Climate-proofing Timor-Leste

It’s time to end our ‘separate but unequal’ approach to mental health

The world’s economy is only 9% circular. We must be bolder about saving resources

New report says better metrics could have prompted stronger response to the crisis

AI has huge potential – but it won’t solve all our problems

MEPs debate Brexit and relations with China following EU spring summit

The issue of health literacy and how it affects European health policies

How drones can help rural Africa take flight

Services are the hidden side of the US-China trade war

Greece: The new government of Alexis Tsipras shows its colors

This company is breeding millions of insects in the heart of London

Progress made at COP25, despite lack of agreement to increase climate ambition

UN Security Council welcomes results of Mali’s presidential elections

Digital Assembly 2019: new actions on quantum, EU-Africa taskforce report and digital start-ups

EU-US Trade: European Commission endorses rebalancing duties on US products

Reform of road use charges to spur cleaner transport and ensure fairness

Burning Amazon rainforests: Darting towards the doom of Human Race

China is among the 20 most innovative economies for the first time

UNIDO promotes post-harvest excellence for mangoes in the Mekong River Delta of Viet Nam

Around 23 million boys have married before reaching 15; ‘we can end this violation’ says UNICEF chief

The US is withdrawing from a 144-year-old treaty. Here’s the context

European Youth cries out: Sustainable Development Goals ambitious, but lack focus on youth

Beyond trust: Why we need a paradigm shift in data-sharing

Syria’s groundbreaking constitutional talks: ‘a clear success of mediation’ says Guterres in Turkey

Fostering defence innovation through the European Defence Fund

More Stings?

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