Scientists estimate the total weight of plastic floating in the world’s oceans

Date:

Share post:

Nearly 269,000 tons of plastic pollution may be floating in the world’s oceans, according to a study published December 10, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Marcus Eriksen from Five Gyres Institute and colleagues.

Scientists estimate the total weight of plastic floating in the world's oceans
Model results for global count density in four size classes. Model prediction 
of global count density (pieces km−2; see colorbar) for each of four size 
classes (0.33–1.00 mm, 1.01–4.75 mm, 4.76–200 mm, and >200 mm) 
[Credit: Marcus Eriksen et al, PLoS ONE ]

Microplastic pollution is found in varying concentrations throughout the oceans, but estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics, both micro and macroplastic, lack sufficient data to support them. To better estimate the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans, scientists from six countries contributed data from 24 expeditions collected over a six-year period from 2007-2013 across all five sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea. The data included information about microplastics collected using nets and large plastic debris from visual surveys, which were then used to calibrate an ocean model of plastic distribution.

Based on the data and model, the authors of the study estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing nearly 269,000 tons in the world’s oceans. Large plastics appear to be abundant near coastlines, degrading into microplastics in the 5 subtropical gyres, and that the smallest microplastics were present in more remote regions, such as the subpolar gyres, which the authors did not expect. The distribution of the smallest microplastics in remote regions of the ocean may suggest that gyres act as ‘shredders’ of large plastic items into microplastics, after which they eject them across the ocean.

“Our findings show that the garbage patches in the middle of the five subtropical gyres are not the final resting places for the world’s floating plastic trash. The endgame for micro-plastic is interactions with entire ocean ecosystems,” says Marcus Eriksen, PhD, Director of Research for the 5 Gyres Institute.

Source: PLOS [December 10, 2014]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

Human remains found in walls of Wari complex

Archaeologists in northern Peru have uncovered human remains buried inside the walls of a pre-Inca archaeological site, challenging...

Tombs of noble women found in North China

Two tombs whose owners were identified as noble women from the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-256BC) were discovered...

Genghis Khan’s genetic legacy has competition

Millions of men bear the genetic legacy of Genghis Khan, the famously fertile Mongolian ruler who died in...

Using molecular analysis to clarify dino colour claims

The color of dinosaurs is a fascinating topic, and in recent years the discovery of melanosomes -- small,...

Celestial fireworks from dying stars

NGC 3582 is part of a large star-forming region in the Milky Way, called RCW 57. It lies...

Anthropologists uncover art by (really) old Masters — 38,000 year old engravings

An international team of anthropologists has uncovered a 38,000-year-old engraved image in a southwestern French rockshelter -- a...

Archaeologist works to defend Big South Fork’s buried treasure

After a few minutes of bushwhacking through the dense forest understory, Tom Des Jean, archaeologist for the Big...

‘Heartbeat stars’ unlocked in new NASA study

Matters of the heart can be puzzling and mysterious—so too with unusual astronomical objects called heartbeat stars. This artist's...