An international review study just released by the Alfred Wegener Institute, shows that large quantities of plastic- transported by air, rivers and the shipping can now be found in the Arctic Ocean.
The microplastic is not only a burden for the ecosystem but could also worsen climate change. Today, between 19 and 23 million metric tons of plastic litter per year end up in the waters of the world. Plastic being very stable, accumulates in the ocean where it gradually breaks down from macro to micro to nano plastics and can enter the human bloodstream.
Expert Dr Melanie Bergmann says the Arctic is still assumed to be a largely untouched wilderness; however, this perception no longer reflects the reality. The article paints a grim picture that although, the Arctic is sparsely populated, in virtually all habitats – from beaches, and the water column, to the seafloor- it shows a similar level of plastic population as densely populated region as around the globe. Many animals in the Arctic Ocean also get entangled in plastic and die. Ingestion of microplastic could also lead to reduced growth and reproduction, to physiological stress and inflammation in the tissues of marine animals.
As climate change progresses, the arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the world. In this regard, the European countries including Germany must cut their plastic output, and more regulation and controls are called for regarding plastic debris from international shipping and fisheries.
The bad news doesn’t stop there, because the same fate is happening to Antarctica, as discussed in our recent Podcast with Lea Kannar-Lichtenbergerner – Moss Environmental available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and iTunes.