'Plastic in All Sizes' Found Everywhere in Once Pristine European Arctic
According to a study from the Norwegian Polar Institute, "plastic in all sizes" can be found throughout the Norwegian Arctic and in the Svalbard islands, an archipelago between Norway's mainland and the North Pole that's also one of Earth's northernmost inhabited areas.
The researchers estimated that nearly 194 trash objects—mostly plastic—can be found per square kilometer in the region, and weighs a total of 79,000 tonnes.
As ABC.net reported from the study, "even in remote areas with relatively low human impact, it says the concentration of plastic waste in the European Arctic is now comparable or even higher than in more urban and populated areas."
The researchers are most concerned about the amount of microplastics in the sea, said scientist Ingeborg G. Hallanger, who is urging for more research on the effects of plastics on the area's wildlife.
"We lack knowledge about the effects on animals. Here we have to research more," she said. "But we know that as much as 90 percent of seabirds have a plastic in the stomach. 22.5 percent of the seahorses have more than 0.1 gram of plastic in the stomach."
"We know that animals confuse the microplastic with food and eat it," added Hallanger. "This can cause internal damage. We also see that animals get stuck in plastic thrown into nature; such as fishing nets and other plastic residues."
Geir Wing Gabrielsen, one of the paper's authors, told BBC News that the fulmar, an Arctic seabird, is particularly impacted.
"At the end of the 1970s we found very few plastic in their stomachs. In 2013 when we last investigated, some had more than 200 pieces of plastic in their stomachs," he said.
Larger animals are also being harmed by the litter. "Other creatures are getting entangled in nets washed up on beaches—like reindeer," Gabrielsen continued. "Some die because they can't release their antlers—we find them every year."
Gabrielsen said that in Svalbard, 80 percent of the waste comes from discarded fishing gear.
"The results are disturbing," said Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen. "It is important that we get the fisheries, aquaculture industry and shipping industry on this. We also need to get control of microplastic that comes from artificial turf and car tires."
Worryingly, the researchers predict that the amount of plastic in the Arctic regions will only increase. In 2015, global plastic production reached 322 million tonnes and will continue to grow.
The BBC aired a segment showing how Norway's plastic flood comes from all over Europe and even from across the Atlantic.
"I mean you can throw a thing from the ocean in Florida and think, 'Hey, I've thrown it away' and then it might end up here on our shores," as Bo Eide, an environment consultant for Tromsø Council who often conducts litter pickups on the Arctic fjords, says in the clip below. "They rather quickly break down into small pieces and even tiny little fibers."
"I think the coastline as a whole ... you can characterize it as a microplastic factory," he sighed. "It's so obvious that what we are doing here is the tip of the tip of the iceberg."
Watch here to see the scale of plastic contamination:
Plastic pollution is reaching record levels in the once pristine Arctic. https://t.co/6vsklnUYpZ— BBC (@BBC)1518175805.0
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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