Seabirds are declining faster than any other group of birds, with plastic ingestion and associated contaminants linked to negative impacts on marine wildlife, including more than 170 seabird species. High levels of ingested plastic are correlated with increased concentrations of chlorine, iron, lead, manganese, and rubidium in feathers. The frequency of plastic ingestion by Laysan Albatross and concentration of some elements in both species is increasing, suggesting deterioration in the health of the marine environment. This is, in brief, the conclusion of a very interesting recent article titled “Ingested plastic as a route for trace metals in Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Bonin Petrel (Pterodroma hypoleuca) from Midway Atoll” that was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.
In another astonishing study, published in Science, researchers from Uppsala University found that larval fish exposed to microplastic particles during development displayed changed behaviors and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates. The researchers discovered that larval perch that had access to microplastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton!
These are just two more pieces of evidence that create the full picture of the problems related to marine litter, one of the most difficult global challenges regarding our environment. The huge impacts of plastic pollution, which have just started to be understood through the case of marine litter, create the dynamics to discuss about the necessity to reduce plastics from the waste streams and to identify appropriate final treatment techniques when they can’t be recycled, for one or another reason. Even better, we have to use the case of marine litter to promote the discussion for a plastic waste – free society, where many products should be redesigned in order to reduce or eliminate plastics and substitute them with more ecologically friendly materials.
Last but not least, after the first mammal extinction due to climate change, tens of thousands of seabirds on the remote Scottish islands of St Kilda have starved to death because of food shortages caused by global warming, according to environmentalists. Global warming puts its own footprint to each and every natural ecosystem, much faster than we think.