Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
We already know that microplastics (bits that are less than 5 mm) are omnipresent in the ocean, but now scientists believe that previous estimates about how much plastic is in the ocean are actually way too low. Using very fine mesh nets, researchers surveyed the coasts of the U.S. and U.K. and were able to estimate that there could be at least twice as many microplastic particles in the ocean as previously thought. When the smaller particles they picked up in these survey trawls are added to global estimates of surface microplastics, it increases the range from between 5tn and 50tn particles to between 12tn-125tn particles, the scientists say.
Why This Matters: Microplastic is more abundant than the tiniest and one of the most abundant life forms in the ocean — zooplankton — if these estimates are correct. The smaller particles mean that they are similar in size to the food eaten by zooplankton, which are a key part of the marine food chain and important in regulating climate. As the authors say, “Microplastics are a prolific, persistent and pernicious contaminant, posing an environmental and economic risk to marine ecosystems across the globe.” We need to reduce our plastics load on the marine environment and soon.
Microplastics Found In Greater Abundance on the Seafloor Too
Recently, another group of scientists found that microplastics are also more abundant on the seafloor than had been believed. The plastic floating on the surface in the large ocean garbage patches is actually only 1% of the total plastic in the ocean. Where does the rest end up? On the seafloor. The researchshows that “powerful currents sweep these microplastics along the seafloor into large ‘drifts,’ which concentrate them in astounding quantities.” They found the highest levels of microplastics ever on the seafloor — they counted “1.9 million pieces of microplastic in a 5 cm-thick layer covering just one square meter.” Scientists believe that deep-sea currents push microplastics to the seabed like giant deepsea waves and deposit it in vast sediment drifts, thereby creating plastic “hotspots” on the seafloor and accumulating in the very same locations as biodiversity hotspots, where deep-sea life is abundant.
Today marks the 4th birthday of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument which was created by President Obama in 2016. The monument is the first fully protected marine area in the US Atlantic Ocean and is special because it home to precious marine ecosystems and species like fragile deep-sea corals, diverse schools of fish […]
by Dr. Gareth Lawson The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument holds a special place in my heart. This monument, designated by President Obama four years ago this week, protects crucial marine habitats for incredible species, from whales to corals, along the edge of the New England continental shelf. Unfortunately, this monument is currently […]
The New York Times reported late last week that federal prosecutors are pressing charges against a ring of a dozen people and two businesses on opposite coasts for running a multimillion-dollar organization involved in international money laundering, drug trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade in shark fins.
Why This Matters: As the World Wildlife Fund reports, around 100 million sharks may be killed annually for their fins and many are sold on the black market. Illegal wildlife trafficking is growing because international criminal networks are able to exploit weaknesses and gaps in international law enforcement.
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.