Microbes could protect marine life from plastic po
Microbes could protect marine life from plastic pollution
Marine life could be protected from the lethal effects of plastic pollution, according to groundbreaking research from experts at the University of Sheffield, which has hailed coastal microbes as a potential ‘clean up’ solution.
In the first DNA based study to investigate how microbes interact with plastic waste in the seabed, experts at the University of Sheffield, along with researchers from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), have shown that the combination of marine microbes that can grow on plastic fragments varies significantly from microbial groups that colonise surfaces in the wider environment. This raises the possibility that the plastic associated microbes have d replica watches ifferent activities that could contribute to the breakdown of these plastics or the toxic chemicals associated with them.
Plastic waste is a long term problem as its breakdown in the environment can take thousands of years. Over time, the size of plastic fragments in the sea decreases as a result of exposure to natural forces. Tiny fragments of 5mm or less are called “microplastics” and are particularly dangerous as they can absorb toxic chemicals which are transported to marine animals when ingested.
The new study, which was presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring meeting in March 2010 by Jesse Harrison, a PhD student in the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, investigated the attachment of microbes to small fragments of polyethylene a plastic commonly used for shopping bags. The scientists found that the plastic was rapidly colonised by multiple species of bacteria that congregated together to form a ‘biofilm’ on its surface. Interestingly, the biofilm was only formed by certain types of marine bacteria that may have the potential to degrade plastics or plastic associated pollutants.
The group, led by Dr Mark Osborn at the University, now plan to investigate how the microbial interaction with microplastics varies across different habitats within the coastal seabed which they believe could have huge environmental b replica watches enefits.
Dr Mark Osborn, senior lecturer in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said: “300 million tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year with significant proportions reaching the marine environment. Our research is revealing the replica watches potential for marine microbes to colonise plastics and to potentially degrade these key environmental pollutants.”
Jesse said: “Pl replica watches astics form a daily part of our lives and are treated as disposable by consumers. As such plastics comprise the most abundant and rapidly growing component of man made litter entering the oceans.
“Microbes play a key role in the sustaining of all marine life and are the most likely of all organisms to break down toxic chemicals, or even the plastics themselves. This kind of research is also helping us unravel the global environmental impacts of plastic pollution.”