Friday, May 11, 2012

New Continent Found - Garbage Gyre II - 2

The Ocean: Garbage In Garbage Out
In this series regular readers have been informed of the mysterious great gyres in the oceans of the Earth.

Gyres are sort of like circular currents in the ocean, that are now huge, growing swirls filled with "civilization's" garbage, flotsam, and jetsam.

In the post Garbage, Garbage, Garbage we introduced readers to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is about twice the size of Texas.

Then in the post New Continent Found - Garbage Gyre II, we pointed out that it had a southern twin.

Finally, in Ecocide: Evidence of Toxins of Power and The Gyres, The America's Cup & Medals, we talked about there being FIVE gyres in the various oceans around the globe, each with garbage, flotsam, and jetsam in them.

But there were no studies back then, as to direct impact, to species in the ocean ecosystem in any particular gyre, except some observations about the obvious ingestion and tangling issues such gyres would engender.

Now, a new report indicates that these gyres are changing the oceans' ecosystems in ways that should concern us all the more:
Plastic pollution in the form of small particles (diameter less than 5 mm) — termed ‘microplastic’ — has been observed in many parts of the world ocean. They are known to interact with biota on the individual level, e.g. through ingestion, but their population-level impacts are largely unknown. One potential mechanism for microplastic-induced alteration of pelagic ecosystems is through the introduction of hard-substrate habitat to ecosystems where it is naturally rare. Here, we show that microplastic concentrations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) have increased by two orders of magnitude in the past four decades, and that this increase has released the pelagic insect Halobates sericeus from substrate limitation for oviposition. High concentrations of microplastic in the NPSG resulted in a positive correlation between H. sericeus and microplastic, and an overall increase in H. sericeus egg densities. Predation on H. sericeus eggs and recent hatchlings may facilitate the transfer of energy between pelagic- and substrate-associated assemblages. The dynamics of hard-substrate-associated organisms may be important to understanding the ecological impacts of oceanic microplastic pollution.
(Increased Oceanic Microplastic Debris). English versions of this paper, for those who do not speak Oceanography, are here: Waste Not, Want Not; and here: Pacific Garbage Patch.

In any language, here is the question for our time: is it Later Than We Think?

The next post in this series is here, the previous post is here.

1 comment:

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