Plastic Pollution Gives Invasive Species A New Highway

Image Credit To: Bryce Groark/Alamy

The debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan is drifting across the Pacific. It’s estimated that 5 million tons of debris was carried out to sea by the horrific act of nature. The event, known as a “mass rafting” event, is allowing invasive species to catch a ride to distant shores.

The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center counted 289 Japanese marine species that were displaced and carried to other areas due to the mass of debris. This plastic rafting poses a gigantic and unforeseen danger to our ecosystem. These invasive species can devastate new habitats that aren’t used to them being there. They can also carry disease that puts further strain on ecosystems.

The animals and organisms that are adrift on this debris have survived for much longer than experts can predict as well. It’s been more than six years adrift for some of the animals adrift.

Rafting is a normal biological phenomenon. Seaweed and other natural floating objects provide a ride for species. This plastic and other man-made debris is a different story though.

Professor Bella Galil of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History had this to say about the “rafting”:

Plastic, particularly, has massively increased the transport possibilities in terms of how much flotsam there is, its variety (in size and structure), where it goes and how long it floats for. Furthermore, plastic can increase local spread of invader species when they do arrive and establish.

These plastic “islands” can spread all across the ocean bringing invasive species to habitats that they were never supposed to belong to. The only true way to stop these invaders are to take away the plastic rafts that they inhabit. Monitoring and collaborating among world powers and governments are important, but the most important thing is to stop this litter in the first place.

Source: The Guardian

Published by Colin Cuff

Hi I'm Colin Cuff. I'm a Junior at La Canada High School. I'm focused on cleaning up our oceans and making the Earth a more livable place for future generations.

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