Coastal Species Living On Plastic Debris

Coastal Species Living On Plastic Debris


Plastic waste abounds in our cities, rivers, and forests, from the highest peaks to the depths of abyssal tunnels. According to a new study conducted by researchers from Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States, coastal lifeforms have colonized plastic items in the ocean.

Points to Ponder

  • Plastic items in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have been colonized by coastal lifeforms.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast east-west strip of trash lying just north of Hawai’i in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG), the world’s most plastic-polluted ocean gyre.
  • The researchers gathered 105 pieces of plastic debris from the NPSG’s eastern region and discovered that 98% of the waste items included invertebrate species.
  • Pelagic (open ocean) species were found on 94.3% of the debris, while coastal species were found on 70.5%.
  • Crustaceans were the most common among both coastal and pelagic species, accounting for 46 taxa.
  • Almost all taxa were of Northwest Pacific origin, including Japan, and the majority of debris (85.7%) lacked detectable markers indicating origin.
  • The researchers discovered a highly positive link between reproduction and movement, with 68% of coastal species reproducing asexually and 33% reproducing sexually.
  • The researchers termed the new type of “standing coastal community… in the open ocean” the mesopelagic community, which lives and reproduces on plastic items in the rubbish patch.

North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG)

  • The North Pacific subtropical gyre is a vast circular system of ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean’s northern hemisphere.
  • It is the world’s largest subtropical gyre and one of five major subtropical gyres.
  • The gyre has a generally round shape and covers an area of approximately 20 million square kilometers.
  • The gyre’s currents rotate clockwise, propelled by trade winds blowing from east to west across the Pacific.
  • The gyre is distinguished by a central zone of calm, warm water known as the “Pacific Garbage Patch,” which has amassed massive amounts of plastic trash.
  • The gyre is vital to global ocean circulation and climate because it transports heat and nutrients around the globe.
  • The gyre is home to a wide diversity of marine species, including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and numerous fish and seabirds.
  • Pollution and overfishing are two examples of human activities that have a substantial impact on the health of the gyre and its ecosystems.