by E. Quinn, Oct 26, 2020 in EyeOn Arctic
Microplastics have been identified in Antarctic waters at rates that mirror the amounts found in oceans elsewhere in the world, including the North Atlantic, says a new study.
“Although no difference in microplastic abundance was found among regions, the values were much higher in comparison to less remote ecosystems, suggesting that the Antarctic and Southern Ocean deep-sea accumulates higher numbers of microplastic pollution than previously expected,” said the authors in the abstract of the paper “High Abundances of Microplastic Pollution in Deep-Sea Sediments: Evidence from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” published Friday in the the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Waters in three areas around Antarctica were sampled for the study: the Antarctic Peninsula, South Sandwich Islands, and South Georgia.
Microplastic is the term used to describe plastics less than, or equal to 5mm.
The study found that just over one particle of microplastic was found in each gram of sediment in each of the three areas. This rate of microplastics mirrors the amounts found in other oceans that are considerably closer to human settlements.
“Our research highlights that no matter how remote an ecosystem is, it will still show the artefacts of human influence,” said Mánus Cunningham, a researcher from Queen’s University in Belfast, in a news release.
“We have been dumping plastic into our oceans for roughly 70 years now, so in hindsight this may not be terribly surprising. What is surprising is that the levels of this type of pollution are comparable to what we consider moderately or highly polluted regions of the world’s oceans.”