Plastic Island in the Pacific is home to coastal animals

The Plastic Island that floats in the Pacific Ocean is home to coastal animals that interact with the marine environment, effectively decreeing a real community in its own right

by Lorenzo Ciotti
SHARE
Plastic Island in the Pacific is home to coastal animals

The Plastic Island that floats in the Pacific Ocean is home to coastal animals that interact with the marine environment, effectively decreeing a real community in its own right. The researchers identified 500 different organisms present on the huge debris patch that are representative of as many as 46 coastal species.

Anemones, bryozoans and crustaceans have been found, it covers about 1.4 million square kilometers. Scientists' analyzes reveal entire colonies of marine organisms that arrived on the island after the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami on the collected samples.

These are coastal taxa that have a direct development capacity and an ase xual reproductive typology. The species of the coast have therefore entered into competition with the pelagic species and have given life to an incredible new ecosystem with all the characteristics of these habitats which must be analyzed by marine biologists to better study their dynamics and results.

The accumulation was formed starting from the 80s, due to the incessant pollution by man and by the action of the ocean current called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, endowed with a particular clockwise spiral movement, the center of this vortex is a relatively stationary region of the Pacific Ocean, which allows floating waste to aggregate with each other in the first layers of the ocean surface.

This accumulation is informally referred to by several names, including Eastern Garbage Island or Pacific Garbage Vortex. The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, causing a huge influx of debris into the ocean; these floating, pushed by the currents, distributed themselves in the Pacific Ocean, reaching also the American coast.

A study conducted in July 2012 revealed that some of the floating debris accumulated in the Pacific Trash Vortex, growing it up to 2,000 miles wide; of which only 2% is not made of plastic. While floating biological waste undergoes spontaneous biodegradation, an enormous amount of non-biodegradable materials such as plastics and marine debris is accumulating in this ocean area.

Instead of biodegrading, plastic photodegrades, it disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces up to the size of the polymers that compose it. Nevertheless, the latter remain plastic and their biodegradation is still very difficult.