Microscopic pieces of plastic pollution were discovered on sea surfaces years ago. However, now, when an attempt was made to search a section of ocean thoroughly, researchers were appalled to find that deep water harbored a greater density of these microplastics than the surface. Shockingly, more microplastic is found in the depths of the seemingly clean Monterey Bay in California than on the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Microplastics are described as extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. C. Anela Choy, an oceanographer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Van Houtan, a population ecologist, gathered an assorted team of experts to suit the needs of the research.
A remotely operated vehicle was used to collect samples in both nearshore and offshore sites in the Monterey Bay. A specially designed sampler filtered thousands of gallons of water and retained particles with a diameter greater than 0.01 mm. Back at the lab, when the team identified the types of plastics present, they found that most of them had originated from materials commonly found in single-use beverages and food containers. They found microplastic wherever they looked. The deep-sea zone (180 – 460 meters below the surface), known as the midwater, contained about four times as much plastic as the surface. Van Houtan thinks that this may be due to plastic particles being deposited with biological material that causes it to sink.
Van Houtan further stated that if the results are continuous for the wider ocean environment then it would be a point of concern as the midwater is the key habitat for most marine animals. If the majority of waste emerges from single-use plastics, it means that we could greatly reduce its concentration by reducing the use of nonessential plastic products.
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