An expert team from the University of Groningen will map out level of plastic in the vicinity of the Wadden Islands and its potential effect on the fragile ecosystem.
Translation by Thomas Ansell
Since 291 containers came loose and fell overboard from the MSC Zoe cargo north of the Wadden Islands last week, significant amounts of flotsam have washed up on the shores of Schiermonnikoog, Ameland, Terschelling, Vlieland, and the Frisian/Groninger coast. This collection of rubbish includes polystyrene foam and fine HDPE plastic granules. In particular, the plastic granules pose a potential ecological disaster.
A team of University of Groningen, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Radboud University Nijmegen, amongst others, will map out the distribution of the plastic in the coming days. In a university press release, marine ecologist Laura Govers says: “We will try out different methods, and in the future will try to research with ‘citizen science’ (volunteer involvement)”.
According to the press release, the RUG has been conducting research on the Wadden Islands for over 40 years from its own biological research station, De Herdershut. Due to the threat that the plastic granules pose to the fragile Wadden ecosystem, the University is conducting a basic inventory this week to map out what is on the island of Schiermonnikoog.
With GPS-enabled smartphones, the team will photograph waste next to a ruler (for scale). This can then be shown directly in Google maps. They will then investigate the best methods to collect the plastic particles in the sand, both at surface level and at depth.
For a list of academics forming the team, see the University of Groningen website