Life on the plastic waste

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According to a new study, the huge plastic waste vortex in the Pacific Ocean is populated by living creatures: Numerous species have “discovered” the floating plastic pieces as a new, permanent habitat for themselves.

Old fishing nets, beverage bottles, garbage bags – plastic as far as the eye can see: this is the great plastic garbage vortex in the Pacific Ocean (“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”). It is estimated to cover 1.6 million square kilometres, 19 times the area of Austria.

Invertebrate organisms have settled on 98 percent of the waste, the majority of them originating from the sea, according to the study, which has just been published in the scientific journal “Nature.” But on 70 percent of the examined parts, there were also living beings, which are to be found otherwise only at the coast. Many coastal animals were discovered, especially on ropes and fishing nets; most marine organisms have settled on floating boxes.

High species richness
The experts discovered a particularly high species richness in bryozoans, small multicellular organisms living in the water. They also found many arthropods, such as crustaceans, and cnidarians, such as c, orals. And the researchers made another interesting observation: The organisms reproduce on the waste. For example, they discovered egg-laying and breeding crabs or breeding female amphipods.

The study concludes that organisms living on the coast can survive well in the open sea. But the question is how they will affect and change the marine ecosystem in the long run.

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