Volvo Ocean Race Research Finds Microplastics In Remote Areas

February 13, 2018 by  
Filed under Plastic

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Research

Published on February 12th, 2018
by Steve Hanley

 

February 12th, 2018 by


The Volvo Ocean Race is one of the most grueling sporting contests in the world. The teams race a total of 46,000 miles over a period of 9 months. Each leg is roughly 6,000 miles long and takes up to 3 weeks to complete — three weeks in which the sailors often get by on a few hours of sleep a day and eat reconstituted freeze dried food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a brief introduction to what they experience out on the water, where wind speeds can exceed 50 miles per hour, check out the video below.

 

The theme of this year’s race is raising awareness of about the massive amounts of plastic debris that is floating in the ocean’s of the world. Leaving Hong Kong last week, one team got its keel tangled up with some plastic sheeting and had to sail backward briefly to get rid of it. One of the seven teams in the competition is called Turn The Tide On Plastic and is sponsored by the Mirpuri Foundation, a nonprofit foundation based in Portugal that is deeply involved in ocean plastic research.

Microplastics Found In Remote Areas

The course this year included a stopover in Cape Town, South Africa before heading across the South Indian Ocean to Melbourne, Australia. Turn The Tide On Plastic used special equipment along the way to take samples of the ocean water it was travelling through. When it reached Melbourne, those samples were flown to the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research located in Kiel, Germany. There they were analyzed.

Researcher Sören Gutekunst reports the samples taken from the South Indian Ocean — an area of the world that is devoid of most human activity, showed 42 particles of plastic per cubic meter — an unexpectedly high number given the remoteness of the area.

“Data on microplastics has not been taken from this extremely remote area before and what we found was relatively high levels,” Gutekunst tells The Guardian. “There are places in the ocean which are not being observed and that is why it is so special for us to be doing this. It is amazing that we have the opportunity and this could lead to much further knowledge about what is happening with microplastics in the ocean.”

Other samples collected during the race showed the highest microplastic levels around Europe’s north Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, ranging from 180 to 307 particles per cubic meter. High levels were also recorded off the coast of Cape Town — 152 per cubic meter — and the Australian coast — 115 particles per cubic meter.

Plastics Found 6 Miles Down In The Marianas Trench

Perhaps the most startling news about contamination in the ocean was reported a year ago by researchers at the University of Newcastle in the UK. Small crustaceans that live at the bottom of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean — the deepest part of the ocean known —  were harvested by a robotic underwater research vessel. They were found to have 50 times more toxic chemicals in their bodies than crabs that live in polluted waterways in China..

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” said Alan Jamieson, who led the research. “The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants really brings home the long term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet.”

Some people, many of whom are now employed in the Trump administration, pooh pooh such concerns. They believe the earth, the atmosphere, and the oceans are so enormous that no amount of human activity could possible have an effect on them. They are wrong. Using the planet we live on as a communal cesspool is simply arrogant and unbelievably stupid. The fact that corporations have been doing so for so long in the pursuit of profits is criminally negligent. Cleaning up the mess humanity has made will take centuries and hundreds of trillions of dollars. But the implications of not doing so are simply unthinkable.

 


 

 

About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

Endangered species’ top 10 list: Save these ecosystems

January 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Oceana, an international ocean conservation group, yesterday released a new report that identifies vital habitats in need of protection, if key endangered species are to have a chance to survive climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5 C (3 to 5 F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, habitat loss, and declining food supply.

For species that are already struggling on the brink of extinction, global climate change threatens to push them over the edge, said Huta. We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to prioritize and protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife. Endangered species don’t have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change.

List of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. Arctic sea ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least six species of seal

2. Shallow water coral reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants

4. Southwest deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish and mammals

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainsons hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native amphibian species, including the Yellow-legged frog

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for the threatened Grizzly bear and other animals

9. The Gulf Coasts flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker

Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon, said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable.

Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but did not make the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species. These ecosystems include Glacier National Park, the Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush Steppe, U.S. West Coast, the Maine Woods, the Grasslands of the Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains.

The new report, which includes information about each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at www.StopExtinction.org.

Scientists ranked Arctic sea ice and shallow water corals as two of the highest priority ecosystems threatened by climate change in an Endangered Species Coalition report demonstrating the urgency of saving habitat for endangered species. The report, entitled Its Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World was released January 5th, and examines how the changing climate is increasing extinction risk for imperiled fish, plants and wildlife.

Have your say: Is the reality of climate change still in question?