Marine litter in remote regions of the Earth’s oceans

Marine litter in remote regions of the Earth’s oceans
Although thousands of miles away from the continents, marine litter in the form of plastic waste from humans can be detected in the Easter Island as well as in the entire South Pacific.

In recent research scientists have shown the effects of marine litter on the ecosystem, as the Easter Island in the South Pacific is one of the most remote regions of the planet and plastic can still be found there.

Although thousands of miles away from the continents, marine litter in the form of plastic waste from humans can be detected in the Easter Island as well as in the entire South Pacific.

In a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, a Chilean-German research team demonstrates the extent of the pollution and the impact on the marine ecosystem.

Plastic pollution

For decades plastic has been the predominant material used in the product and packaging sectors. However, more and more of these products are polluting the Earth’s oceans.

Due to ocean currents the plastics reach the most remote areas of the planet. It is in these areas that the marine litter is ingested by marine organisms as images from the study show.

According to Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the researchers from various institutions in Chile, including the Millenium Nucleus ESMOI (Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Islands) and from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have taken water samples and documented that nearly 100 different species are affected by plastic pollution in the South Pacific between the Easter Island and South America.

What did the research find?

Dr Martin Theil, lead author of the study said: “Particularly high (micro) plastic concentrations were found around the Easter Island and up to 2000 kilometres off the Chilean coast”.

The researchers assessed reports about marine organisms entangled in old nets, Theil added: “They are substantially more frequent in the Humboldt current than in the open ocean, whereas plastic ingestion of smaller particles is more frequent in the open ocean.”

The researchers maintain that the study shows very clearly that the particles concentrate in subtropical gyres.

The issue surrounding plastic waste is highlighted when the scientists investigate what marine life ingests from it. Dr Nicolas Ory, co-author of the study from GEOMAR said: “We have studied nearly 100 different species from the Southeast Pacific. Among them are 20 species of fish, more than 50 seabirds and almost 20 marine mammals,

“In the stomachs are all sorts of plastic fragments, sometimes in alarmingly high concentration.” These can impair and even weaken the living organisms and in the long term can lead to increased mortality.

Theil concluded: “The garbage problem in the ocean is global and it has already arrived in the remotest regions of the world.”

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