June 15, 2024

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A large Pacific garbage patch in the middle of the ocean is now home to coastal species

A large Pacific garbage patch in the middle of the ocean is now home to coastal species

In a patch of trash and plastic, coastal species thrive in the middle of the ocean, researchers say in a new study.

While studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, scientists found that coastal species occurred on more than 70 percent of the debris, according to a study published Monday in the Nature Ecology & Evolution Journal. There is even evidence of them being reproduced in their plastic homes.

The discovery of living coastal species in the middle of the ocean isn’t unprecedented, but the researchers said the diversity and frequency of coastal species is new.

“Our results demonstrate that the oceanic environment and floating plastic habitats are clearly hospitable to coastal species. Coastal species with a range of life history traits can survive, reproduce and have complex and community structures in the open ocean,” the study authors wrote. . “A plastic globe may now provide new, extraordinary opportunities for coastal species to expand their numbers into the open ocean and become a permanent part of the pelagic community, fundamentally altering oceanic communities and ecosystem processes in this environment with potential implications for shifts in species dispersal and biogeography. wide spatial scales.

The researchers studied species found on 105 pieces of debris collected between November 2018 and January 2019. The debris included fishing nets, ropes and bottles.

About two-thirds of the wrecks studied were home to both coastal and open-ocean species that lived together.

More plastic is expected to make its way into the ocean in the coming years. newly The study warned That without urgent policy intervention, the rate at which plastic waste enters the ocean between now and 2040 will increase by about 2.6 times.

A seagull stands next to a discarded surgical gown in a Recology dumpster on April 2, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Where is the Great Pacific Garbage Spot?

There really isn’t one big trash heap, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The debris is concentrated in a number of areas. Wind and waves are constantly moving garbage in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California.

How big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Researchers estimated in 2018 that there were at least 79,000 tons of plastic inside the patch. The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization, has Removed over tens of thousands of pounds of wreckage in the years that followed. The patch is made of large pieces of debris and microplastics.

How was the Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed?

litter spots Eddies — rotating ocean currents — form that pull debris into one place, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There are five eddies located throughout the oceans.

Are there other litter spots in the ocean?

While the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most well-known, it’s not the only one. There are two eddies in the Pacific Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean and one in the Indian Ocean that create patches of debris.

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