Researchers in Antarctica detected microplastics in the intestines of animals as a result of their research on insects they found on a plastic foam. Microplastics show that environmental pollution threatens the ecosystem of even remote areas such as Antarctica.
Microplastic pollution has recently become one of the most important problems threatening life. Discovering microplastics in the intestines of local insects on King George Island off the Antarctic coast raised concerns that plastic pollution may be common in the region’s ecosystem.
In 2016, researchers from Italy and Ireland came across a polystyrene foam used for building insulation on the shores of King George Island, north of the Antarctic continent. There were invertebrate insects called “Cryptopygus antarcticus” on top of the foam. Experts performed tests on 18 animals on the piece of foam and microplastics were found in the intestines of animals.
The microplastic presence in Antarctica, which is not a general human settlement, shows the terrible dimension of environmental pollution
Elisa Bergami, a researcher leading the project from the University of Siena, states that they saw animals on their discovery trip in a highly contaminated area. “I was concerned about the plastic waste along the coast, and we wanted to understand the effect of plastic on such an isolated environment,” Bergami decided to take the foam to Italy. explains the form.
The research team then detected microplastics in the intestines of animals using infrared spectroscopy at the research center Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste in Italy. Bergami says that insects also eat plastic while eating moss and lichen that cover the polystyrene foam. He also noted that microplastics can carry pathogens and waste materials that are harmful to the animals they test and other species in the ecosystem’s food chain.
Environmental pollution threatens the entire ecosystem
Tancredi Caruso, an associate professor and author of the study at University College Dublin, explained that the type of insect they tested was common in Antarctica, and the research result could raise concerns for the entire ecosystem. Hoping that the study would lead to more research, Caruso said that the negative role of plastic in ecosystems was underestimated.
Cryptopygus antarcticus is an important part of the food chain in glacier-free areas, rocky coastal areas where penguins and seal fish gather. Plastic waste can damage the already fragile Antarctic ecosystem. The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.