Scientists believe that the social and economic cost of plastic waste has been underestimated. The waste can remain afloat for decades, covering distances of more than 3,000 kilometers and creating new habitats for bacteria and algae. These novel colonies increase the risk of spread of invasive species and diseases, says a study published recently in Marine Pollution Bulletin.
The document, titled Global ecological, social and economic impact of marine plastic, ensures that birds, fish, mammals and turtles become entangled and ingest plastic, which causes the population levels of some animals to be reduced. In the future, these effects will translate into profound changes in biodiversity.
The marine plastic (the eight million tons that are dumped to the oceans a year according to the United Nations Organization) has been related to the increase of invasive species. The plastic acts as a raft that transports organisms. But while algae and wood decompose rather quickly, (limiting the distance animals can travel), the plastic does not decompose so quickly, so if a species sticks to a piece of plastic, it can travel a lot. farther than a few years ago. "There is evidence that this waste is allowing species to travel further and inhabit new places by providing a long-lasting raft," says Nicola Beaumont, PhD, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK, and author of the report.
"There is evidence that this waste is allowing species to travel farther and inhabit new places by providing a long-lasting raft," he says. Nicola Beaumont, PhD, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, United Kingdom and author of the report
Plastics are found all over the world, from the most populated coasts to the most remote coasts, and they produceFishing, aquaculture, recreational activities and global well-being are adversely affected. The document estimates that the benefit that the human being obtains from the oceans decreases from 1% to 5% annually.
Both the efficiency and productivity of the fishing industry and the health of people are affected, although they have not yet been conclusively demonstrated. "Plastics have an impact on the recreation and tourism sector, since people do not want to visit dirty areas, in addition to changes in temperature and acidity, and a lot of other pollutants," explains Beaumont. The cumulative effect of all these stress factors is difficult to predict, but if they continue in a prolonged way, we could notice substantial changes in marine biodiversity and the functioning of the seas. "We still do not know what plastic is doing or can do in the oceans, what we do know is that its effects will be chronic and will suffer on a global scale," says Andrés Cózar, professor of biology at the University of Cádiz.
Plastics are fragmented until they become invisible to the human eye, remain in the environment during geological periods and are easy to ingest by accident. "Deposited in the funds, in darkness and low concentrations of oxygen, are practically eternal," says Cózar.
Governments must be aware
There are many variations in the amounts of plastic produced and used by countries and the amount that is recycled and stored in landfills. "The most populated and developing are those that occupy the first positions in plastic discharges to the sea. These are the countries that enjoy the comforts of using plastic but have not yet developed enough waste collection and treatment services, just as they did in Spain 30 or 40 years ago, but with the difference that the plastic market was not developed then, "explains Cózar. It is a problem on a world scale: the actions of one country affect many others. "Much of the marine plastic in the United Kingdom comes to the Arctic," says Beaumont.
The oceans provide a multitude of advantages for people, from food or a place to relax, to the absorption of many pollutants, including COtwo. "If we change the ecology too much, we can lose or diminish these benefits, with serious consequences for human well-being," concludes Beaumont.
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