Plastics Destroying Marine Ecosystem

By Dennis Pearson

Staff Writer

New studies from Lund and Uppsala University shed light on the devastating effects of microplastics on marine life. Microplastics are the smaller remnants of the slowly decomposing plastic products like bags, string and tupperware dumped in the world’s oceans.

Plastic takes hundreds or even a thousand years to fully decompose and once it reaches a small enough level, it is nearly impossible to retrieve. There are large concentrations of plastic pollution found in the world’s oceans like the North Pacific Garbage Patch, but plastic pollution can be found in an ever increasing range of places.

Uppsala University studied the effects of microplastics on Perch. They discovered that populations of Perch exposed to microplastics developed reproductive, dietary, biological and behavioral issues. The hatching rate of eggs declined. Perch ignored the chemical signals that warned them of predators and their capture rate was four times higher than unexposed Perch. Exposed Perch were less active than regular Perch. Mortality rates were higher and the physical development of exposed fish were also affected. Some Perch weren’t exposed to microplastics through their environment.

Many times they ingested it through the medium of Zooplankton (one of the most important organisms in the marine food chain) who ate it themselves or directly. A chemical trick made Perch prefer eating the microplastics instead of their natural food source like zooplankton. Because of this, many Perch accidently starved themselves and weren’t able to reproduce.

Plastic’s effects on Perch could be very similar to other marine life but more studies need to be done before it is verified. But there is no doubt that plastic does have deadly effects on many forms of marine life.

In the end it also has an effect on human life. As the food chain progresses, the toxins of plastic and the separate toxins it absorbs comes back to us through the fishing/game industry. Hazardous materials found in plastic like lead and mercury when ingested by humans can be just as deadly.

The consumption of plastic can lead to certain cancers,birth abnormalities, development and immune issues. If ignored, the whole marine ecosystem could collapse which would affect land based ecosystems and cause mass extinctions in the near future. The transition to greener more efficient waste disposal and  more eco friendly products will help fight the dangers of plastic pollution.