Understanding the new threat of microplastic pollution in the Ross Sea: a review (2018)
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Microplastics are defined as plastic particles less than 5mm in diameter. They have spread to the furthest reaches of our marine environments, including coastal waters, deep sea sediments, and Arctic sea ice. Recently they have also been found in the most remote and pristine oceans around the Antarctic, including the Ross Sea. Apart from the frighteningly pervasive presence of microplastics in the world’s oceans, they have emerged as an important area of research because of their potential impacts on the health of marine organisms. Despite the proliferation of research on this topic, none has yet investigated the impact of microplastics in the Ross Sea region in Antarctica. Having been identified as one of the most pristine marine ecosystems on earth, the rapidly increasing prevalence of microplastics poses a new threat to this unique ecosystem. It may be possible to infer the likely impacts of microplastics in this ecosystem based on global findings, but the unique nature of the Ross Sea demands focused research efforts. These should focus on a more accurate understanding of the quantity, distribution and sources of microplastics in this region with the view to mitigate local contributions where possible. Of even greater importance is research dedicated to understanding the impact of microplastics on the key species in the food web of the Ross Sea, as identified by Pinkerton et al. (2014).
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