CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has provided the first ever globalestimate for microplastics on the seafloor, with results suggesting there are14 million tonnes in the deep ocean.
This is more than double the amount of plastic pollution estimated to be onthe ocean’s surface.
Justine Barrett from CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere who led the study publishedtoday said the research extended our understanding of the amount of plasticpollution in our oceans and the impact of plastic items, both large and small.
“Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and breaks down,ending up as microplastics,” Ms Barrett said.
“Our research provides the first global estimate of how much microplasticthere is on the seafloor.
“Even the deep ocean is susceptible to the plastic pollution problem.
“The results show microplastics are indeed sinking to the ocean floor.”
Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the marine environment annually, andquantities are expected to increase in coming years, despite increasedattention on the detrimental impacts of plastic pollution on marineecosystems, wildlife and human health.
The samples used in this study were collected using a robotic submarine indepths to 3000 metres at sites up to 380 kilometres offshore from SouthAustralia.
The amount of microplastics recorded was 25 times higher than previous deep-sea studies.
Based on the results of deep-sea plastic densities, and scaling up to the sizeof the ocean, we calculated a global estimate of microplastics on theseafloor.
Dr Denise Hardesty, Principal Research Scientist and co-author, said plasticpollution of the world’s oceans was an internationally recognisedenvironmental issue, with the results indicating the urgent need to generateeffective plastic pollution solutions.
“Our research found that the deep ocean is a sink for microplastics,” DrHardesty said.
The number of microplastic fragments on the seafloor was generally higher inareas where there was also more floating rubbish.
“We were surprised to observe high microplastic loads in such a remotelocation.
“By identifying where and how much microplastic there is, we get a betterpicture of the extent of the problem.
“This will help to inform waste management strategies and create behaviouralchange and opportunities to stop plastic and other rubbish entering ourenvironment.
“We can all help to reduce plastic ending up in our oceans by avoiding single-use plastics, supporting Australian recycling and waste industries, anddisposing of our rubbish thoughtfully so it doesn’t end up in our environment.
“Government, industry and the community need to work together to significantlyreduce the amount of litter we see along our beaches and in our oceans.”
The samples used for this research were an ancillary collection to a baselinesurvey of deep-sea geology and ecology funded by CSIRO and the GreatAustralian Bight Deepwater Marine Program (GABDMP). The GABDMP is a CSIRO-ledresearch program sponsored by Chevron Australia, with data generated to bemade publicly available
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