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Ocean Plastics Host Surprising Variety of Microbial Species

Ocean Plastics Host Surprising Variety of Microbial Species | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it

A surprising suite of microbial species colonizes plastic waste floating in the ocean, according to a new study. These microbes could speed the plastic’s breakdown but might also cause their own ecological problems, the researchers say (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/es401288x).

 

Plastic waste from consumer products often finds its way into the oceans in a range of sizes, from microscopic particles to large chunks. This accumulation of plastic worries environmental scientists. For example, fish and marine mammals can mistake the plastic pieces for food and ingest the debris, or toxic chemicals can leach from the plastics.

 

But much still remains unknown about the ecological impacts of these materials. So a group of Massachusetts researchers, led by Linda A. Amaral-Zettler at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Tracy J. Mincer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, decided to study the microbial communities found on plastics to explore how the organisms affect marine environments.

 

The team analyzed plastic samples they collected during two research cruises to the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, a stretch of ocean roughly midway between the eastern coast of North America and Africa. They used a scanning electron microscope, among other techniques, to study the bacteria living on the particles. “What we found really blew us across the room,” says Mincer, a microbial ecologist: They couldn’t say for sure, but the bacteria appeared to burrow pits into the plastic, which had never been observed before. The team didn’t expect such behavior, because they thought nutrient levels in that region wouldn’t support bacteria digesting hydrocarbons in this way.

 

The group suspects this may at least partially explain a surprising aspect of plastic waste found in previous studies in this region of the Atlantic. Even though the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean is probably increasing, researchers at Sea Education Association, a nonprofit group that studies the ocean environment, have not found an increase in plastics in the sea (Science 2010, DOI: 10.1126/science.1192321).

 

Mincer says one possible explanation is that bacteria eat into the polymers, weakening the pieces enough to cause them to break down more quickly and eventually sink to the sea floor. Supporting this hypothesis, some of the plastic-burrowing bacteria are closely related to species known to consume other types of hydrocarbons, such as oil.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic (Part 1/3)

Vice sails to the North Pacific Gyre, collecting point for all of the ocean's flotsam and home of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: a mythical, Texas-sized is...

Via Troy Mccomas (troy48)
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James Jhodes's curator insight, September 4, 2013 5:40 AM

Wow! A Garbage Island! Imagine what it causes when we do not manage our garbages appropriately. Instead of helping the world to become clean and green, we are making the world full of imperfections. This will never happen if we know how to deal with our waste products. For me, if we know how to recycle, we can still save the planet.

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#Studying How #Plastic Pollution Enters Ocean #Food Supply ~ well worth a watch

From http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Marcus Eriksen is not really fishing. He is catching plastic in the Atlantic Ocean...

Via Marian Locksley, SustainOurEarth
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Rescooped by Skip Richards from All about water, the oceans, environmental issues
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Go plastic free for our oceans

Go plastic free for our oceans | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it
Have you ever ordered fries at a sit down restaurant and with them came a plastic cup or plastic package with only a tear drop of ketchup?

Via Kathy Dowsett
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5 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste and Ocean Pollution | boats.com Blog

5 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste and Ocean Pollution | boats.com Blog | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it
Ocean pollution a growing problem in the northern Pacific and one that could change life on our planet within the next 20 years.

Via Kathy Dowsett
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Waste Plastic and Recycling | The Energy Collective

Waste Plastic and Recycling | The Energy Collective | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it
The Plastic Bank is an organization and a movement aimed at removing plastic waste from the world’s oceans, beaches and waterways in a process that empowers people living in poverty to raise their standard of living and strengthen their communities.

Via SustainOurEarth
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The Plastic Ocean Project: 1 Day of Sampling for Plastics in the N. Atlantic

The Plastic Ocean Project: 1 Day of Sampling for Plastics in the N. Atlantic | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it

This is the fourth year Plastic Ocean Project is sampling roughly the same region of the North Atlantic gyre which is also where the longest running deep ocean time-series takes place called the Ocean Flux Program (OFP) headed up by Dr. Maureen Conte our lead scientist. Flux, meaning the variability in material transfer from the surface to the deep driven by the activity between the physical, biological, and chemical processes, and longest running meaning over the past 45 years.


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Lake Erie Has Garbage Patch That Rivals Those in Oceans

Lake Erie Has Garbage Patch That Rivals Those in Oceans | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it

As if loads of toxic algae weren’t enough, Lake Erie has come up as the most plastic-laden of the five Great Lakes. Plastic as in Great Garbage Patch.

 

(Related story:Lake Erie Will Become Toxic-Algae Breeding Ground: Scientists)

 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has received a lot of notice over the past couple of years, especially having been augmented by debris from the 2011 tsunami that swept Japan’s northeastern region after a devastating earthquake. But there is also known to be one in the Atlantic Ocean. (Related: Great Pacific Garbage Patch Bigger Threat Than Tsunami Debris: Scientists andGreat Pacific Garbage Patch Nominated for Superfund Status)

 

But the one in Lake Erie apparently dwarfs the Atlantic Ocean garbage patch in terms of density, a new study presented at a three-day meeting of the American Chemical Society, which wrapped up on Thursday April 11. Researchers found between 1,5 and 1.7 million plastic so-called microparticles per square mile in Lake Erie, much of it consumer-generated. This is 24 percent more particles than have been found in the South Atlantic, and a higher density too than in parts of the Pacific Gyre, according toU.S. News & World Report. 

 

Read more athttp://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/04/11/lake-erie-has-garbage-patch-rivals-those-oceans-148749


Via Sarah LittleRedfeather Kalmanson
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Sarah LittleRedfeather Kalmanson's curator insight, April 13, 2013 12:21 PM

"Lake Erie has a garbage debris field with more particles than the one in the Southern Atlantic Ocean." --- Climate Change, pollution, floods carrying toxins and dumpings where we are starting to see the results! Out of the 5-Great Lakes, Lake Superior, is still the healthiest out of the other Great Lakes, so let's keep her that way.

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Teen invents device to clean giant ocean garbage patches

Teen invents device to clean giant ocean garbage patches | The great pacific debris island | Scoop.it
At an age when most people are just thinking about what they want to do with their lives, one 19 year old is inventing a method of cleaning up the ocean's plastic garbage patches.

Via Marty Koenig
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Marty Koenig's curator insight, April 5, 2013 12:54 AM

I'll bet he could crowdfund this!