Saga of the Plastic Scrap Colonies

Attached to a particle of floating plastic garbage to ride the currents of the world, species are increasingly crossing habitat:

“There has always been marine debris in the form of pumice, volcanic rock, coconuts and so on [but] we are greatly increasing something that was already there. Human rubbish spreads across all the world’s seas, forming half of all the marine debris washing up in the tropics and more at higher latitudes.” [link]

David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey found that man-made rubbish in the seas, especially plastics, has almost doubled the spread of alien species in the subtropics and more than tripled it at high latitudes. Since the creation of plastics over 50 years ago, floating litter has provided mobile homes for marine organisms such as bryozoans, barnacles, polychaete worms, hydroids and molluscs, increasing opportunity for dispersal to new areas. Many seem to prefer plastics to natural matter such as volcanic rock, pumice and wood.

Link to previous post on the Garbage Island.

Link to a 12 part video series about the Pacific Ocean’s floating trash heap‘.

Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation points out:

“The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, although it has a 6 year period of rotation at the surface, is much too large to be considered a single “area” in any meaningful sense.

“It is full of diverse habitats and is already richly seeded with plant life. In fact, plastic debris has doubled the biological life at the surface in the area according to Dr. Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey.

“The writer conjures up an image more like a lake. Remember, if the gyre was a lake it would be the size of Africa, with an average habitat depth of over a mile.

The scale is the hardest thing to communicate.”