Monday, January 4, 2010

Man Made Plankton

It has become commonplace that a walk on a beach involves careful footing around the morass of washed up trash. It’s obvious when you look at the growth on it that it’s been in the sea for a while; but how long, and where has it been?

There are 5 major gyres in the world, formed by the circling currents in the north and south Pacific and Atlantic, and the Indian Gyre. Trapped in these gyres is the trash that has found its way from wherever we left it to the ocean. Occasionally pieces find their way back to shore, but the majority of it just collects out in the “great garbage patch” in the ocean.

The effects of this are the topic of thousands of websites, articles, books, and movies. I’m only going to touch on one aspect; plankton. Plastic isn’t biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean that it stays ‘whole’. It eventually gets broken up into smaller and smaller pieces and mixes into the water column. Studies in the gyres have not only shown that there’s more plastic then plankton in the water, but that there’s as much as 6 to 10 times more plastic then plankton.

Add in the propensity of plastic to absorb harmful chemicals, you know have these little poison pills replacing the plankton in every swallow of a filter feeding animal. I can’t even begin to imagine how much plastic is sitting in the stomachs of the whales and filtering sharks of our oceans.

I urge you to search the web for “plastic gyre”, do some reading. Check out Addicted to Plastic. Read, Research, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.


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