Ocean garbage is home to a surprising amount of life from the coasts

Linsey Haram/SERC Marine Invasions Lab

Scientists studying a giant collection of plastic trash floating in the middle of the open ocean have found some unexpected inhabitants: dozens of marine species that usually stick close to the coast.

Among the plastic debris, the researchers found all kinds of nonnative species, from anemones to worms to little crustaceans.

“To find that many coastal species on a relatively small sample size was shocking,” says Linsey Haram, a marine ecologist who did this research while working at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center…

Haram and her colleagues made this discovery after examining 105 items of debris collected from an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This region between Hawaii and California has become a giant garbage soup, because currents drag in floating debris that accumulates over time.

Haram and her colleagues decided to sample some of the garbage out in the Pacific, with the help of a nonprofit called The Ocean Cleanup, which had gone out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in November of 2018 and January of 2019.

Examining the trash back in the lab, researchers found hundreds of marine invertebrate specimens – and 80% of the species were coastal.

Read the details. Fascinating stuff. For an old New England beachcomber [relocated decades ago] not all that surprising. Still, the size and effect of these changes is something I must learn more about.

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