Plastic pollution in our oceans even worse for the environment than believed
The pollution of our oceans of oceans by marine litter and microplastics could be having an even worse affect on the environment than previously feared.
A new study led by marine scientists from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway in collaboration with UCC and Villefranche sur Mer Laboratory has found that microplastic pollution may be having a serious impact on the systems in the ocean that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The NUIG research team looked at how microplastics affect small, jellyfish like creatures called Salps that play an important role in uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and its transport to the sea floor where it is stored.
The ocean is the single largest natural absorber of Carbon Dioxide emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, where it plays an important part in the marine ecosystem.
At the sea surface, microscopic algae turn dissolved CO2 into fuel (organic carbon). These algae are consumed by many different animals and form the basis of the marine foodweb.
However, as it passes through the food chain much of that carbon is respired and converted back into CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere once again.
This is where Salps play an important role. They eat the algae on the sea surface and instead of re-emitting it they produce dense faecal pellets, which rapidly sink to the deep sea, carrying with them some of this captured carbon.
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