Almost all seabirds and at least half of the turtles that live in the world’s oceans have consumed plastic. That is just one of many findings in a recent meta-analysis by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research and the environmental NGO WWF.
The report, entitled ‘Impacts of plastic pollution in the oceans on marine species, biodiversity and ecosystems ‘, reviewed 2,590 studies to analyze how the arrival of plastics (a material with barely a century of existence) in the oceans is irreparably changing the ecosystems and the species that inhabit them. According to the document, plastic pollution in the ocean will quadruple by 2050, pushing more areas to exceed the ecologically dangerous threshold for concentration of microplastics.
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According to María Alejandra González, Regional Policy Advisor for Plastics at WWF in Latin America and the Caribbean, this report is one of the most Complete studies that have been carried out on the problem caused by this material in the world and point out the critical points of contamination, the impacts and the urgent actions that countries must take in order to solve it.
“Plastic is defined as one of the environmental problems with the potential to affect human life. This crisis is related to others such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change, and with the conditions we currently have in terms of the amount of plastic that reaches the oceans, which will quadruple by 2050, it gives us the line of actions that will be they must take at this time through the different actors”, he highlights.
Impacts of plastic pollution in the oceans on marine species, biodiversity and ecosystemsWorrying findings on plastic in the sea
Among the main findings of the study, it has been found that a A total of 2,144 species haveplastic pollution in their natural environments, according to a conservative assessment of the research.
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Likewise, it is highlighted that the negative impacts of plastic pollution are already detectable in most groups of species, while the productivity of various marine ecosystems important in the world, such as coral reefs and mangroves, are under significant risk.
In addition, one of the main points of the report points out that in several regions of the world, concentrations of microplastics have exceeded the threshold above which they could present biological risks for marine species and humans, who depend on them for food. This threshold has already been reached in certain hotspots: the Mediterranean, East China and Yellow Seas, and Arctic sea ice.
In the worst case, exceeding ecologically dangerous thresholds for microplastic pollution could lead to adverse effects on species and ecosystems, including reduction of populations.
“All the evidence suggests that ocean plastic pollution is irreversible. Once distributed in the ocean, plastic waste is almost impossible to recover. It is constantly degrading and therefore the concentration of micro and nano plastics will continue to increase for decades. Attacking the causes of plastic pollution is much more effective than cleaning up afterward. If governments, industry and society act together now, they can still limit the plastic crisis”, says Heike Vesper, Director of the Marine Program at WWF Germany.
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The problem is aggravated if it is combined with other threats that affect marine ecosystems today, such as overfishing, global warming, eutrophication or maritime transport.
In the case of Latin America, according to María Alejandra González, although these large points of contamination were not identified, the problem of plastic pollution is transboundary in nature and today it is seen everywhere.
“The Caribbean is also among the marine ecosystems most affected by pollution in general and by the contamination ation for plastics. In Latin America we have one of the lowest rates of plastic recyclability, which means that with the increase in production due to population growth in the coming years, the figures for waste thrown into the sea are going to be even higher in the future. region”, points out the expert.
Regulate plastic in the world
This year, WWF together with more than 700 civil society organizations, more than 100 of the largest companies in the world and 156 countries have asked the United Nations Organizationthat regulates plastic with a binding treaty for all the countries that are part of the UN.
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The movement, also promoted by WWF, seeks that said regulations be developed in the United Nations Assembly for the Environment Environment 5.2, an event that will run from February 28 to March 2 this year.
“We know how to stop plastic pollution and we know that the cost of inaction comes at the expense of our ocean ecosystems: there is no excuse to delay a global treaty on plastic pollution. The way out of our plastic crisis is for countries to agree to a globally binding treaty that addresses all stages of the plastic life cycle and puts us on the path to ending marine plastic pollution by 2030,” he said. Ghislaine Llewellyn, Deputy Leader of WWF Oceans.
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