Plastic pollution in the oceans is damaging the bacteria that create oxygen that we breathe



A study finds that plastic pollution in the oceans is damaging bacteria that generate 10% of the oxygen we need to breathe

  • The researchers took fragments of a thin plastic bag and PVC mats
  • Experts from Macquarie University left them in artificial seawater for five days.
  • The bacteria called Prochlorococcus were then exposed to artificial seawater.
  • This changed their growth pattern and triggered genes linked to stress.

By Victoria Allen Correspondent of science for the Daily Mail

Published: 10:50 EDT, May 14, 2019 | Updated: 10:51 EDT, May 14, 2019

Plastic pollution in the oceans could be damaging the bacteria that humans need to help us breathe.

One tenth of the oxygen we breathe comes from a single type of bacteria from the ocean, through photosynthesis.

But a study has found that chemicals that leak out of plastic debris can stop bacteria from producing oxygen and damage their growth.

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The plastic pollution in the oceans could be damaging the bacteria (in the photo) that humans need to help us breathe. One tenth of the oxygen we breathe comes from a single type of bacteria from the ocean, through photosynthesis.

The plastic pollution in the oceans could be damaging the bacteria (in the photo) that humans need to help us breathe. One tenth of the oxygen we breathe comes from a single type of bacteria from the ocean, through photosynthesis.

The scientists took fragments of a thin plastic bag and a PVC mesh, which were left in artificial seawater for five days.

When their chemicals had leaked out, bacteria called Prochlorococcus were exposed to "seawater," which changed their growth pattern and triggered genes related to stress.

The findings raise important concerns, since the plastic in the ocean will outgrow the fish by 2050 and the bacteria they affect are so vital to the air we need to survive.

Dr. Lisa Moore, co-author of the study at Macquarie University in Australia, said: "These tiny microorganisms are critical to the marine food web, contribute to the carbon cycle and are believed to be responsible for up to 10 percent of production. total global oxygen

"Then, one in 10 breaths of oxygen you breathe is thanks to these little ones, but almost nothing is known about how marine bacteria, like Prochlorococcus, respond to human contaminants."

The lead author, Dr. Sasha Tetu, from the same university, said: "Our data show that plastic pollution can have widespread impacts on ecosystems beyond the effects known in macro organisms, such as seabirds and turtles. " Much of the research on ocean pollution focuses on fish and other forms of marine life swallowed or entangled in plastic. However, the material also threatens the smallest inhabitants of the ocean.

A study has found that the chemicals that seep from the plastic waste (pictured) can stop the bacteria from producing oxygen and damage its growth. The findings raise important concerns, since the plastic in the ocean will outperform the fish by 2050

A study has found that the chemicals that seep from the plastic waste (pictured) can stop the bacteria from producing oxygen and damage its growth. The findings raise important concerns, since the plastic in the ocean will outperform the fish by 2050

It is believed that cyanobacteria, such as Prochlorococcus, have made the Earth habitable for animal and human life, by using photosynthesis to convert the energy of the sun and water into respirable oxygen.

Now there are about three octillions of green Prochlorococcus bacteria that live in the world's oceans. To understand that large number, an octillon has 27 zeros at the end, while a million has six zeros and a billion has nine.

To see if the plastic could affect the bacteria, the researchers exposed the cells of two strains found at different depths of the ocean to the chemicals that seep out of plastic bags and PVC.

PVC had the worst effect, stopping completely the production of oxygen in one of the strains after 24 hours.

The chemicals in the gray plastic bags began to reduce oxygen production in both strains after 24 hours.

Both chemicals stopped the proper growth of the bacteria, which meant that they did not photosynthesize at the same time they changed the activity of their genes.

The study, found in the journal Communications Biology, suggests that PVC can be more harmful because it contains "plasticizers" to make the material more flexible, as well as aggressive chemicals to keep it clean and regulate its temperature.

Dr. Tetu said: "Now we would like to explore whether plastic pollution is having the same impact on these microbes in the ocean."

HOW DO MICROPLASTICS ENTER THE OCEANS OF THE RIVERS?

Urban floods are causing microplastics to spill into our oceans even faster than previously thought, according to scientists observing pollution in rivers.

The water courses in Greater Manchester are now so contaminated by microplastics that particles are found in every sample, even in the smallest streams.

This research is a major contributor to pollution in the oceans, the researchers found as part of the first detailed study of watersheds worldwide.

These wastes, including microspheres and microfibers, are toxic to ecosystems.

Scientists tested 40 sites around Manchester and found that all waterways contained these small toxic particles.

Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic waste that include microbeads, microfibers and plastic fragments.

It has long been known that they enter river systems from multiple sources, including industrial effluents, storm drains and domestic wastewater.

However, although it is believed that about 90 percent of microplastic pollution in the oceans originates in the earth, not much is known about their movements.

Most of the rivers examined had around 517,000 plastic particles per square meter, according to researchers at the University of Manchester who conducted the detailed study.

After a period of great flooding, the researchers returned to take samples in all the sites.

They found that pollution levels had decreased in most of them, and the flooding had eliminated about 70 percent of the microplastics stored in riverbeds.

This shows that flood events can transfer large amounts of microplastics from the urban river to the oceans.

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