Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

All the world's oceans have plastic debris on their surface

Date:
June 30, 2014
Source:
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Summary:
The Malaspina Expedition, led by the Spanish National Research Council, has demonstrated that there are five large accumulations of plastic debris in the open ocean that match with the five major twists of oceanic surface water circulation. In addition to the known accumulation of plastic waste in the North Pacific, there are similar accumulations in the central North Atlantic, the South Pacific, the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

This is small plastic debris collected on the circumnavigation cruise Malaspina 2010 expedition.
Credit: © CSIC

The Malaspina Expedition, led by the Spanish National Research Council, has demonstrated that there are five large accumulations of plastic debris in the open ocean that match with the five major twists of oceanic surface water circulation. In addition to the known accumulation of plastic waste in the North Pacific, there are similar accumulations in the central North Atlantic, the South Pacific, the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

However, central surface waters of the oceans may not be the final destination of plastic debris since, as indicated by the study performed by the Malaspina Expedition, large amounts of microplastics could be passing to the marine food chain and the ocean floor. Results of the study, led by the University of Cadiz (Spain), have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Andrés Cózar, researcher from the University of Cadiz, explains: "Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation. Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88% of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010."

According to the study authors, the results obtained by the Malaspina Expedition show that the problem of plastic waste pollution has a global character. The major residues found are polyethylene and polypropylene, polymers used in the manufacture of everyday products like bags, food and beverage containers, kitchen utensils and toys, among others.

Cózar adds: "These microplastics have an influence on the behavior and the food chain of marine organisms. On one hand, the tiny plastic fragments often accumulate contaminants that, if swallowed, can be passed to organisms during digestion; without forgetting the gastrointestinal obstructions, which are another of the most common problems with this type of waste. On the other hand, the abundance of floating plastic fragments allows many small organisms to sail on them and colonize places they could not access to previously. But probably, most of the impacts taking place due to plastic pollution in the oceans are not yet known."

CSIC researcher Carlos Duarte, coordinator of the Malaspina Expedition, states: "Our results show that the high concentration of plastic is not a unique feature of the Nort Pacific, but occurs in each of the subtropical gyres." Duarte concludes: "Only a global expedition, such as the Malaspina Expedition, could achieve these results and evaluate the overall abundance of plastic pollution. The good news is that abundance is much lower than expected, but the pending challenge is to figure out where the rest of plastics entering the ocean is."

The Malaspina Expedition

The Malaspina Circumnavigation Expedition 2010, a project led by CSIC that includes more than 400 researchers from around the world, started in December 15th 2010 with the departure of the Hespérides oceanographic research vessel from the port of Cadiz. On board of this ship belonging to the Spanish Armada, and the Sarmiento de Gamboa ship belonging to the CSIC, researchers studied for nine months (seven aboard the Hespérides and two aboard the Sarmiento) the impact of the global change on the ocean ecosystem and explored its biodiversity.

Scientists took nearly 200,000 water, plankton, atmosphere particles and gases samples in 313 points of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at depths of up to 6,000 meters. On board, they measured the temperature and salinity, the surface properties, the acoustics of the marine currents, the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the ocean and in the atmosphere, and the scope of the sunlight, among other parameters.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrés Cózar, Fidel Echevarría, Juan I. González-Gordillo, Xabier Irigoien, Bárbara Úbeda, Santiago Hernández-León, Álvaro Palma, Sandra Navarro, Juan García-de-Lomas, Andrea Ruiz, María L. Fernández-de-Puelles, and Carlos M. Duarte. Plastic debris in the open ocean. PNAS, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314705111

Cite This Page:

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). "All the world's oceans have plastic debris on their surface." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164253.htm>.
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). (2014, June 30). All the world's oceans have plastic debris on their surface. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164253.htm
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). "All the world's oceans have plastic debris on their surface." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164253.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) — With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins