Crabs, mussels and barnacles from coastal regions found a new home on the open ocean in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a 1.6 million-square-kilometer collection of marine debris particles floating between Hawaii and California - according to the study by researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland. In their report published in Nature Communications, they warn that such clusters now existing on the open ocean could throw the ocean ecosystem out of balance. Floating debris such as plastic nets, buoys and bottles that wash into the eddies could bring the organisms from coastal areas, the researchers suggest. Moreover, if the coastal species travel on the plastic pieces like on rafts to new areas, they could become invasive species there, explains SERC's Linsey Haram. Haram, together with the Ocean Voyages Institute, had collected 103 tons of plastic and other debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the study and then analyzed it. This had shown that coastal species such as anemones and amphipods not only survive on marine plastic, but actually thrive there. Until now, scientists had assumed that the open ocean was not habitable for coastal organisms, said co-author Greg Riuz. The study is said to show that plastic waste provides a habitat and coastal organisms find food there. Exactly how, however, remained to be determined.
- forschung-und-wissen.de (12/3/2021)
- spiegel.de (12/6/2021)
- Photo: @ SERC