New research shows the devastating effect of plastic microbeads on sea life
Translated by Thomas Ansell
In order to give greater insight into the effects of the container ship disaster, which occurred the evening of January 1, 2019, researchers at Wageningen Marine Research have been keeping various creatures in containers with sea water and various concentrations of plastic particles.
The research will be fully complete in January of next year due to the slowdown related to the Coronavirus. Now that the experimental phase is complete, processing of the containers can begin in order to see the effects of the plastic on the creatures and ecosystems that were simulated. As reported by the Omrop Fryslân.
Edwin Foekema of Wageningen Marine Research says: “what actually happens now is that the entire system we’ve created is to be empty. The water column will be filtered, so we can see what plankton are present. After that, the base of the mini-ecosystems that is made from sand, will be removed- so that we can check what is living in the sand, and what has grown in two months. We can then compare our mini-ecosystems with no plastic particles, to those with large amounts, to see how this affects the individual creatures, but also the ecosystem as a whole.”
Though there hasn’t been a huge die-out of subjects recorded, the effects are likely to be more salient, says Foekema: “maybe the shellfish in one container with plastic, for example, will be must smaller, or have produced significantly fewer offspring”. This type of research has never been done before, and could provide globally-relevant insights into what our plastic soup is doing to marine life.
The research will be combined with other projects started following the beaching of the MSC Zoe. On Texel, for example, the Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee (NIOZ) has been doing modelling that will be combined with Wageningen’s research. “We’ll combine these results with the modelling from the NIOZ and then we will be able to see what concentration of plastics is occurring in which area. On the basis of this we’ll be able to see what is sitting in the Wadden Sea, and then I think we’ll have a fairly full picture of the situation”, says Foekema.
It was only in March of this year that the final containers dumped by the MSC Zoe were retrieved from the Wadden Islands.
Image via the Dutch military. Public realm.