Scientists Find Increasing Levels of Plastics in Arctic Ocean

New Wave Media

October 24, 2012

  • AWI
  • ERW

A study published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin written by Dr. Malanie Bergmann, a deep-sea biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research found higher levels of pollution observed at the AWI deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN. For this study Dr. Melanie Bergmann examined some 2100 seafloor photographs taken near HAUSGARTEN, the deep-sea observatory of the Alfred Wegener Institute in the eastern Fram Strait. This is the sea route between Greenland and the Norwegian island Spitsbergen. The deep-sea scientists from the HGF-MPG Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology of the Alfred Wegener Institute regularly deploy their towed camera system OFOS (Ocean Floor Observation System) during Polarstern expeditions to the HAUSGARTEN. At the central HAUSGARTEN station it is towed at a water depth of 2500 meters, 1.5 meters above the seabed, and takes a photograph every 30 seconds. Deep-sea biologists principally use these photographs to document changes in biodiversity with respect to larger inhabitants such as sea cucumbers, sea lilies, sponges, fish and shrimps. However, for Melanie Bergmann they also provided evidence of increasing deep-sea pollution. When sponges or other suspension feeders come into contact with plastic, this may cause injuries to the surface of their body. The consequence: the inhabitants of the sea bed are able to absorb fewer food particles, grow more slowly as a result, and probably reproduce less often. Breathing could also be impaired. Furthermore, plastic always contains chemical additives, which have various toxic effects. In view of the far-reaching climate changes in the Arctic, Melanie Bergmann and colleagues want to expand their research projects on "litter in the sea" During this expedition Belgian mammal and bird observers also counted 32 pieces of litter floating at the water surface. The probability of researchers finding more litter on the deep ocean floor is therefore great.


Images: AWI/ERW