Thursday, September 27, 2012
Another human bootprint on the fragile Earth
Or the fragile ocean in this case. Plastic debris has reached the Southern Ocean, previously thought to be pristine.
This is reported by researchers following a two-and-a-half-year 70,000-mile voyage by the schooner Tara (pictured) to investigate marine ecosystems and biodiversity under climate change.
The scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans, Chris Bowler, is quoted in today’s Guardian saying: "We had always assumed that this was a pristine environment, very little touched by human beings … The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale." Moreover, even if future pollution is mitigated by less waste and substituting biodegradable materials, "It's too late to do much about what's already out there at this stage, as this stuff is going to hang around for thousands of years."
The fatal impact of plastic pollutants on the marine environment has been widely observed, the Great Pacific Trash Vortex being the most notorious example, see this Wikipedia article.
Birds and fish regularly consume waste products, mistaking them for jellyfish or other prey. The plastics cannot be degraded in the stomach and slowly release toxins and other chemical substances that work their way up the marine food chain.
Tara Oceans seems so rely on charitable funding mainly from France and the USA. Its objectives are to finance scientific research into the impact of global warming on ecosystems, to increase general awareness about environmental issues, and to diffuse scientific data for educational and policy purposes.
Worth supporting I think. Here's their donations page.