They find microplastics of human origin in the southern ocean of Antarctica

Microplastics of human origin have reached the southern ocean that surrounds Antarctica, according to a joint study by the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) of Barcelona (Spain) and the National University of Córdoba (Argentina), which indicates that these contaminants could having arrived there through the discharge of water from the washing machines of the Antarctic bases and from the tourist boats that visit the area.

ICM-CSIC biologists have warned that the presence of these microfibers of anthropogenic origin could affect the entire Antarctic ecosystem, one of the most remote enclaves on Earth.

The study, published in the journal "Marine Pollution Bulletin"has confirmed that the flow of particles that settles on the Antarctic coast contains microfibers of anthropogenic origin.

"The study confirms that there is a flow of microfibers of anthropogenic origin in the water column of the Antarctic coast, and that this flow varies seasonally, being greater when the Antarctic bases are fuller and there are more tourist visits, that is, in summer."the researcher from the National University of Córdoba (Argentina) Gastón Alurralde explained in a statement.

For his part, the ICM-CSIC researcher Enrique Isla, co-author of the study, has warned that "the presence of these microfibers could affect the entire Antarctic ecosystem as a whole, since the microplastics are ingested by zooplankton, which feed on larger animals such as penguins, with which they accumulate throughout the food chain Marine".

Furthermore, according to the researcher, "microplastics contain additives that give the plastic different properties such as color and resistance and that could also have adverse effects on Antarctic biota".

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To carry out the study, marine biologists analyzed, first with a magnifying glass and then chemically, several samples of sedimentary particles captured with sediment traps between 2012 and 2015 at a depth of 25 meters in Potter Cove on King George Island, also known as Isla 25 de Mayo, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, located off the west coast of Antarctica.

Two years ago, another study published in the same journal revealed the presence of plastic microfibers in Antarctic sea ice, although this is the first time that the flow of microfibers of anthropogenic origin in the Antarctic water column has been analyzed.

Scientists predict that there will be an increase in plastic microfibers in Antarctica due to the increase in tourists in the area and they trust that the results of this work will serve to implement a regulation that controls this type of contamination.

"Our study opens a field of research and a line of sociopolitical interest on the conservation of the Antarctic environment. In addition, it provides information to establish new standards for the control of domestic water emissions in Antarctic environments and for the estimation of the impact of microplastics on the marine environment at a global level."Isla has argued.

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