“Plastic Pollution in the Marine Environment” is a review article that describes the describes the role of plastic pollution in marine environments. Authors G.G.N. Thushari and J.D.M. Senevirathna believe that “the ecological and socio-economic impacts of plastic pollution are interconnected”. Marine organisms can ingest, become entangled in, or otherwise be impaired by plastic pollutants. This can negatively impact tourism, fisheries, human health, and services gained by people.
Some suspension feeders and benthic organisms likely mistake microplastic particles for food because the plastic particles are roughly the same size as feeding matter, such as plankton. Ingestion of plastic debris can be lethal or sub-lethal for marine species. Sub-lethal effects can be impaired reproduction ability, loss of sensitivity, the inability to escape from predators, loss of mobility, decreased growth, and body conditions, according to the review article.
Toxic chemicals like flame retardants, metal ions, and antibiotics are incorporated in some plastics and can also be ingested by wildlife. Fish that have been exposed to these chemicals are unsafe for human consumption. Contaminated seafood sources can create adverse health effects on people.
Some plastics float near the water’s surface while more dense plastics sink down into the deep oceans. If a piece of plastic’s density is greater than that of seawater, the plastic will sink. Plastic in seawater less dense than itself will float. Plastics take on countless shapes and sizes, ranging from large objects, to centimeter-sized scraps, to microscopic bits. Both large and microscopic plastics, therefore, have the potential to interact with marine organisms at all levels of the water column.
The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution
As stated in the review article, extreme climatic conditions such as storms, floods, and monsoons can increase the concentration of plastic in an area. Plastic is spread by wind and water currents. Weather patterns are essentially circulation systems that move plastics through environments. The physical effects of climate change then, are likely influencing the mobilization of plastics between land, sea, and freshwater systems.
Climate change and plastic pollution are linked. While climate change contributes to the movement of plastics, plastics contribute to climate change by being a greenhouse source at all stages of their lifetimes, which fuels global warming.