So far, scientists estimate that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic and they still have some of it in their gut. But by the half of this century, 99 percent of seabirds would certainly face the problem, study authors suggest.
Hopefully, things are reversible if we manage to shut down the plastic waste stream, the research team noted. But if no measures are taken, nearly all dead seabirds would contain some plastic in their stomach, study author Erik Van Sebille estimates.
The study was published this week in the journal PNAS.
On the other hand, the recent research is not unique. Countless studies had tried to assess the impact of plastic debris on marine life. Yet, seabirds are more exposed to plastic intoxication because of their foraging habits.
Birds are usually attracted by shiny or colored things and think they are food. For instance, they can take a shiny bottle top for a fish. But when that piece of plastic reaches the bird’s gut it usually cannot pass through boosting the risk of premature death and illness.
A recent report shows that nearly 8 million tons of plastic waste reaches the world’s oceans every year. So, the risk for marine life to ingest plastic is huge. Other studies had shown that seabirds are particularly at risk since the early 1960s.
The recent study was actually a review paper of scientific literature on the issue. In the 1960s, just 5 percent of sea birds were reported to carry plastic waste in their guts. In 2015, this figure nears is 90 percent, while by 2050 the research team expects it to reach 99 percent.
“Plastic in seabirds is ubiquitous, and it’s increasing,”
noted Chris Wilcox, co-author of the study.
The team based their findings on extensive data on the locations with the highest risk of plastic exposure and the foraging patterns of seabirds in the area. Roughly 400 seabird species were monitored during the research.
But researchers argued that the hotspots of risk are not the areas with the largest plastic concentrations. Instead, the largest amount of sea plastic waste is found within ocean gyres also known as “garbage patches” because they tend to attract garbage and make it spin on and on again.
These garbage patches are now found even in the locations that were not long time ago considered “pristine.” Dr Van Sebille explained that we no longer have pristine oceans. Even oceans that are considered relatively clean are having their fair share of plastic.
Image Source: Flickr
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