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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is becoming home to animals that shouldn’t be there

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been drifting in the Pacific for years. It is made up of trillions of pieces of plastic of various sizes. An international team of scientists has discovered that it is inhabited by coastal species that are alien to the environment of open ocean waters. They may become invasive species in the future and displace those for which open water is a natural habitat.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an ocean “dump” that is located in the North Pacific, between California and Hawaii. It covers an area of ​​millions of square kilometers and consists of countless pieces of plastic of various sizes. Scientists from the USA, Canada, the Netherlands have found that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located in the open ocean, is inhabited by coastal species. These are species that should not be here, because open water is a foreign environment for them. An article on this topic appeared on Monday, April 17 in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“The issues of a drifting garbage patch go beyond simply ingesting plastic and becoming entangled in it,” said Linsey Haram, author of the paper and marine ecologist.

>>> READ: These countries are accelerating the growth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch the most

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is home to coastal species

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An American ecologist drew attention for the first time to the problem of the appearance of coastal species in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch drifting in open waters. In the publication, he warns that this could lead to coastal animals becoming invasive species in the new environment of the open ocean.

Haram and her team’s research suggests that coastal animals swimming on plastic waste are more common and diverse than scientists previously suspected. Species of coastal invertebrates such as crustaceans, sea anemones and bryozoans were found on about 70 percent of the 105 plastic items examined. The number and richness of coastal species on these items also greatly exceeded the diversity of pelagic species, i.e. species that are usually found in the open ocean.

‘It appears that coastal species now live in the open ocean and form neopelagic communities,’ the researchers write in their new paper. Neopelagic species are species that live on drifting debris and are foreign to open ocean waters, including the Pacific Garbage Patch. They are potentially invasive and destructive species.

The coastal invertebrates have not only survived, but are apparently thriving in their new, floating environment. Fern-like seaweeds (related to jellyfish and corals) with reproductive structures, as well as amphipods and sea anemones of various sizes were found among the garbage.

How do coastal invertebrates manage to live and reproduce in an environment so unlike their natural habitat? This remains a mystery. According to the researchers, animals also find food here, in such a remote part of the ocean that is poor in food. That’s why the Pacific Garbage Patch is called a “food desert.”

The dashed line and pluses indicate the area occupied by the “waste island”NOAA

Science Alert, nature.com, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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