A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Plastic Debris in Oceans has Spawned a 'Plastisphere' of Organisms

Published in Environment 360, November 13th, 2013

The plastic debris that litters the world's oceans has developed its own unique and diverse microbial ecosystem, which scientists have dubbed the "plastisphere." READ MORE 




















Members of the rich microbial ecosystem living on plastic debris are shown in these scanning electron microscope images: a) a diatom and bacterial filaments; b) filamentous cyanobacteria; c) a predatory ciliate in foreground covered with symbiotic bacteria (inset), along with diatoms, bacteria, and filamentous cells; d) microbial cells that have pitted the surface of a piece of plastic debris. All scale bars are 10 micrometers. (Image credit: Zettler, et al., Environmental Science & Technology)

The plastic debris that litters the world's oceans has developed its own unique and diverse microbial ecosystem, researchers report. The microscopic community, which scientists dubbed the "plastisphere," includes more than 1,000 species of algae, bacteria, microscopic plants, symbiotic microbes, and possibly even pathogens, the researchers say in Environmental Science & Technology

Some of the plastisphere microbes, many of which had never before been documented, contain genes that could help break down hydrocarbons, indicating the microbes may play a role in degrading the debris, the research shows. Plastic trash is the most abundant type of debris in the ocean, inflicting harm on fish, birds, and marine mammals that are entangled by it or ingest it. 

Until now, researchers hadn't looked at microbes living on the debris, which make up a sort of artificial "microbial reef," one of the scientists said. The organisms on the plastic debris were different from the microbial communities living on driftwood, feathers, and other natural items floating in the ocean, and also different from the assemblage of microbes living in open water, the researchers report.

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