Marine species of animals, which usually live in coastal areas, build “homes” from plastic waste and survive in them in the open sea. The results of this study were published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, writes Vice.
Scientists led by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center marine ecologist Linsey Haram identified 484 species of invertebrates, including molluscs and crustaceans, living on plastic collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. To do this, they studied 105 objects of floating garbage – ropes, nets, bottles, etc.
“Our results demonstrate that the oceanic environment and floating plastic habitat are clearly hospitable to coastal species,” the study says. “Coastal species with an array of life history traits can survive, reproduce, and have complex population and community structures in the open ocean.”
Because plastic waste is extremely resilient, it provides open access to new spaces for species that previously could not colonize them.
“Coastal species persist now in the open ocean as a substantial component of a neopelagic community sustained by the vast and expanding sea of plastic debris,” the study says.
Scientists believe that the plastisphere could provide coastal species with extraordinary new opportunities to expand their populations in the open ocean. This will fundamentally change oceanic communities and ecosystem processes.
“With plastic pollution waste generation and inputs to the ocean expected to exponentially increase over the next few decades, a steady source of substrate may sustain the neopelagic as a persistent community,” they concluded.
The results of the study are actually consistent with unofficial observations from previous years. For example, long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte, while swimming through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, witnessed a large number of life forms flourishing there.
However, plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems in the modern world. It is especially harmful for water resources – about 11 million tons of plastic enter the sea every year, and this figure is expected to grow in the coming years.
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