Microplastic effects in Antarctic marine ecosystems

A research tries to go in depth on the effect of microplastics even in frontier environments such as Antarctica

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Microplastic effects in Antarctic marine ecosystems

Microplastic Interactions and Possible Combined Biological Effects in Antarctic Marine Ecosystems, is a very interesting research, published on the Animals: an open access journal from MDPI. This research tries to go in depth on the effect of microplastics even in frontier environments such as Antarctica.

The researchers explained: "Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are the most remote regions on Earth, and their quite pristine environmental conditions are increasingly threatened by local scientific, tourism and fishing activities and long-range transport of persistent anthropogenic contaminants from lower latitudes.

Plastic debris has become one of the most pervasive and ubiquitous synthetic waste in the global environment, and even at some coastal Antarctic sites it is the most common and enduring evidence of past and recent human activities.

Despite the growing scientific interest in the occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in the Antarctic environment, the lack of standardized methodologies for the collection, analysis and assessment of sample contamination in the field and in the lab does not allow us to establish their bioavailability and potential impact.

Overall, most of the Southern Ocean appears to be little-affected by plastic contamination, with the exception of some coastal marine ecosystems impacted b and wastewater from scientific stations and tourist vessels or by local fishing activities.

Microplastics have been detected in sediments, benthic organisms, Antarctic krill and fish, but there is no clear evidence of their transfer to seabirds and marine mammals. Therefore, we suggest directing future research towards standardization of methodologies, focusing attention on nanoplastics (which probably represent the greatest biological risks) and considering the interactions of MPs with macro- and microalgae (especially sea-ice algae) and the formation of epiplastic communities.

In coastal ecosystems directly impacted by human activities, the combined exposure to paint chips, metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), contaminants of emerging interest (CEI) and pathogenic microorganisms represents a potential danger for marine organisms.

Moreover, the Southern Ocean is very sensitive to water acidification and has shown a remarkable decrease in sea-ice formation in recent years. These climate-related stresses could reduce the resilience of Antarctic marine organisms, increasing the impact of anthropogenic contaminants and pathogenic microorganisms."