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

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More