Quantcast

More Microplastics in Deep Sea Than Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Oceans
Pexels

Microplastics have infiltrated the earth's largest ecosystem: the deep ocean.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) used small drone submarines to take sea-water samples from the ocean surface all the way down to the floor, at 3,200 feet. They found that there were actually more microplastics 1,000 feet below sea level than there are in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, USA Today reported. The findings come as people around the world prepare to celebrate World Oceans Day Saturday and gives new insight into how plastics impact the entire marine environment.


"We didn't think there would be four times as much plastic floating at depth than at the surface," Monterey Bay Aquarium Chief Scientist Kyle Van Houtan told USA Today. But that is what the researchers found when they compared their samples.

The samples were taken off the California coast in Monterey Bay, where the continent suddenly plummets, making it easier for researchers to investigate a part of the ocean whose plastic content has not been studied in depth, NPR reported.

"The deep ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet," Van Houtan told NPR, "and we don't know anything about the plastic in the deep ocean."

The research, published in Scientific Reports Thursday, begins to fill in that knowledge gap. It found that the highest concentration of microplastics was between 600 and 2,000 feet below sea level. The maximum concentration discovered was 16 particles per cubic meter of water, four particles per cubic meter more than are found in the garbage patch.

"Scientists are now beginning to realize that microplastics are truly ubiquitous. They've been found from the seafloor to the mountain tops, in the air we breathe and in the salt we put on our meals," University of Exeter conservation scientist Brendan Godley, who was not involved in the research, told USA Today.

The plastic in the deep ocean is also making its way into the food web via the creatures that live there. Researchers sampled two: pelagic red crabs and giant larvaceans, a creature similar to a tadpole. Both are species that travel from the surface to the ocean floor daily. Plastic was found in all of the sampled animals' digestive tracts, The Guardian reported.

It was actually the prevalence of microplastics in the guts of deep sea species that inspired the research, study author and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego scientist Anela Choy told The Guardian. She said she would routinely find plastic bits like bottle caps or trash bags while studying the diets of tuna and other fish who live around 1,000 feet below sea level.

"It was so strange," Choy told The Guardian. "We were seeing recognizable pieces of human society."




Another thing that surprised the researchers was the type of plastic they found. While some have hypothesized that the ma

Next Page

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less
(L) Selma Three Stone Engagement Ring. (R) The Greener Diamond Farm Project. MiaDonna

By Bailey Hopp

If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 11, 2005. NOAA Photo Library / Lieut. Commander Mark Moran

The most destructive hurricanes are three times more frequent than they were a century ago, new research has found, and this can be "unequivocally" linked to the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By George Citroner

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the World Health Organization currently recommend either 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (walking, gardening, doing household chores) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) every week.

But there's little research looking at the benefits, if any, of exercising less than the 75 minute minimum.

Read More Show Less
Mary Daly, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, poses for a photograph. Nick Otto / Washington Post / Getty Images

It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore.

Read More Show Less

Passengers trying to reach Berlin's Tegel Airport on Sunday were hit with delays after police blocked roads and enacted tighter security controls in response to a climate protest.

Read More Show Less