Tech UPTechnologyConfirmed: Antarctic penguins are eating microplastics

Confirmed: Antarctic penguins are eating microplastics

Plastic pollution is one of the great environmental problems of our era, and various studies show how microplastics are already present practically everywhere. Furthermore, it is estimated that around the year 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in our seas and oceans.

The latest work, published in the Science of the Total Environment magazine, stresses the need to know the effects of these particles and to establish more effective measures to control pollution by plastics and other particles of human origin in the Antarctic continent.

These pollutants reach the seas and oceans mainly through garbage and waste from anthropic activities ”, explains Andrés Barbosa, scientist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) and author of the work. “Given the low human presence in the Antarctic Ocean and Antarctica, low contamination by microplastics would be expected in these areas. However, research stations, fishing and tourist boats and ocean currents make these particles reach these habitats, which can cause a high concentration at the local level ”, says José Xavier, researcher at the University of Coimbra (Portugal).

Penguins, indicators of ecosystem health

In the new work, carried out by an international team of scientists, the feces of three penguin species were analyzed: the Adelie penguin ( Pygoscelis adeliae ), the chinstrap ( Pygoscelis antarcticus ) and the gentoo ( Pygoscelis papua ). “Penguins are used for many studies because their biology and ecology are well known and the fact that they are predators makes them good indicators of the health of the ecosystems in which they live”, clarifies Barbosa.

“The results show that the diet of the three species is made up of different proportions of Antarctic krill ( Euphausia superba ), 85% in the case of the Adélie penguin; 66% in the chinstrap and, finally, 54% in the Papua. ” Microplastics were found in 15, 28 and 29% of the samples, respectively, in the three species studied, ” says Joana Fragão, a researcher at the University of Coimbra.

“The frequency of appearance of these substances was similar in all colonies, which leads us to believe that there is no specific point of origin of contamination within the Scotia Sea. It is necessary to continue studying along these lines to better understand the dynamics of these substances and their effects on these ecosystems to guide new management policies in the Antarctic continent ”, concludes Filipa Bessa, also from the University of Coimbra.

Source: CSIC


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