In the grasslands, the plastics are incorporated to agglomerates of natural fiber with a ball shape (aegagropila or Posidonia Neptune balls).
Posidonia oceanica seagrass –an endemic marine phanerogam with an important ecological role in the marine environment- can take and remove plastic materials that have been left at the sea, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The study describes for the first time the outstanding role of the Posidonia as a filter and trap for plastics in the coastal areas, and it is pioneer in the description of a natural mechanism to take and remove these materials from the sea. Other authors of the study are the experts Miquel Canals, William P. de Haan and Marta Veny, from the Research Group on Marine Geosciences of the UB, and Javier Romero, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the UB.
A trap for plastics in coastal areas
The Posidonia oceanica makes dense prairies that make a habitat with a great ecological value (nutrition, shelter, reproduction, etc.) for marine biodiversity. As part of the study, the team analysed the trapping and extraction of plastic in great seagrasses of the Posidonia in the coasts of Majorca. “Everything suggests that plastics are trapped in the Posidonia seagrass. In the grasslands, the plastics are incorporated to agglomerates of natural fiber with a ball shape –aegagropila or Posidonia Neptune balls- which are expulsed from the marine environment during storms”, notes Anna Sànchez-Vidal, member of the Department of Ocean and Earth Dynamics of the UB.
“According to the analyses –she continues- the trapped microplastics in the prairies of the Posidonia oceanica are mainly filaments, fibers and fragments of polymers which are denser than the sea water such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
How are Posidonia Neptune balls made?
This marine phanerogam has a vegetative structure made by a modified stem with a rhizome shape from which the roots and leaves appear. When the leaves fall, its bases (pods) are added to rhizomes and give them a feather-like appearance. “As a result of the mechanical erosion in the marine environment, those pods under the seafloors are progressively releasing lignocellulosic fibres which are slowly added and intertwined until they make agglomerates in a ball-shape, known as aegagropilae. Aegagropilae are expulsed from prairies during periods of strong waves and a certain part ends up in the beaches”, says Professor Javier Romero, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the UB.
Posidonia aegagropilae are expelled from the prairies during periods of strong waves and a part ends up piled in the beaches. Although there are no studies that quantify the amount of aegagropilae expelled from the marine environment, it is estimated that about 1,470 plastics are taken per kilogram of plant fibre, amounts which are significantly higher than those captured through leaves or sand. As researcher Anna Sànchez-Vidal says, “we cannot completely know the magnitude of this plastic export to the land. However, first estimations reveal that Posidonia balls could catch up to 867 million plastics per year”.
Plastic-free oceans: everyone’s responsibility
The polluting footprint of plastics that come from human activity is a serious environmental problem affecting coastal and ocean ecosystems worldwide. Since plastics were created massively in the 20th century fifties, these materials have been left and accumulated at the sea –seafloors act as a sink for microplastics— and are transported by ocean currents, wind and waves. “The plastics we find floating in the sea are only a small percentage of everything we have thrown onto the marine environment”, warns Anna Sànchez-Vidal.
The paper published in the journal Scientific Reports has been carried out within the frame of the subject of the EHEA bachelor’s degree final project of the degree in Marine Sciences of the Faculty of Earth Sciences, and counted on the support from the Scientific and Technological Centers of the UB (CCiTUB). The new ecosystemic service of the Posidonia described in the article has a significant value in a marine area such as the Mediterranean –with high quantities of floating plastic and in the seafloors— and with Posidonia seagrass that can occupy large areas up to forty meters deep.
“This is why we need to protect and preserve these vulnerable ecosystems. However, the best environmental protection strategy to keep oceans free of plastic is to reduce landfills, an action that requires to limit its use by the population”, conclude the experts.
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Posidonia oceanica seagrass
- Secret Ibiza
Containing nine species of Mediterranean seagrass, including the native Posidonia oceanica, they’re Unesco protected for this biodiversity. “It’s perfect,” I sigh. “Oh, there’s others ...
- Newly Discovered Symbiosis Could Power Carbon Removal in The Sea
Seagrass meadows are vast fields of underwater ... Living directly within the roots of Neptune grass (Posidonia oceanica), researchers in the Mediterranean have discovered a new type of bacteria ...
- A seagrass harbours a nitrogen-fixing bacterial partner
Read the paper: Terrestrial-type nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between seagrass and a marine bacterium The bacterium contains an RNA sequence (16S rRNA) that shows 95% similarity to that of a ...
- Posidonia oceanica seagrass (IMAGE)
This natural mechanism could trap about 867 million plastic per year in coastal areas. Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert ...
- Climate change: 'Forever plant' seagrass faces uncertain future
Posidonia oceanica is found all over the Mediterranean ... but also plays a globally significant role in soaking up CO2. "These seagrass meadows are the champion of carbon sequestration for ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Posidonia oceanica seagrass
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Plastic trash in the ocean is a global problem, and the US is the top source – a new report urges action
Plastic debris on a beach on Lanai, a sparsely populated Hawaiian island. Matthew Koller, CC BY-NDPlastic waste of all shapes and sizes permeates the world’s oceans. It shows up on beaches, in fish ...
- Tracking Ocean Plastic from Space
About 8 million tons of plastic flow from rivers and beaches into the ocean every year. These plastics are carried by ocean currents and broken down by waves and the Sun into small microplastics. Much ...
- The US Is Filling the Oceans With Shocking Amounts of Disgusting Plastic
The US is the top generator of plastic waste in the world — and environmental researchers are ringing the alarm bells. A new congressionally mandated report for the National Academies of Sciences, ...
- New report says US should make less plastic to save oceans
If the current rise in plastics pollution continues, the world by 2030 will be putting 58.4 million tons (53 million metric tons) into the oceans each year, or about half the weight of the fish ...
- There's so much plastic floating on the ocean surface, it's spawning new marine communities
Researchers still have questions about these new plastic-living communities, but the discovery could change ocean ecosystems on a global scale.