The ‘Plastisphere’ – Microbes Are Colonizing Flecks of Plastic

Written by on December 18, 2013 in Marine Life

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Plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution. Photo credit: cesarharada.com via photopin cc.

Behold the ‘Plastisphere’
We’ve heard a lot about plastic pollution lately, particularly involving micro-plastics, but this news is quite a bit different. A new study reveals that a diverse multitude of microbes are colonizing and thriving on the tiny flecks of plastic that are polluting our oceans. The “plastisphere” raises a lot of questions about how it will alter marine microbe communities and the overall ocean ecosystem. The organisms living on the plastic are different from those in the surrounding water, which indicates that the plastic actually acts as an artificial ‘reef’. When collecting plastic, the researchers were interesting in finding out not just who lived there, but how they function, what their role is in the plastisphere and how they are altering the ecosystem.

‘Less Deadly Catch’? New boat seeks safer fishing in Bering Sea
Fishing on the Bering Sea is just as dangerous as the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” makes it look. In 2012, 32 fishermen died on the job, a drop from 42 the year before. Over the years, numerous safety measures have been added, from changing the culture among fishermen to providing them with emergency gear and survival suits. The latest solution, however, doesn’t have to do with the individual fishers, but the boats themselves. A $35 million, 190-foot vessel is currently being built in a dry dock north of Seattle. It should be ready for use late next year. The vessel is designed to keep fishermen away from the deck but will also act as a processing plant, which will reduce waste and therefore reduce pressure on the crew.

UF research shows coral reefs can be saved
The future of coral reefs might all sound like doom and gloom, but the results of a 13-year study reveal that even damaged reefs can recover. Warm ocean temperatures in the Cayman Islands led to bleaching and infectious disease that reduced live coral cover by more than 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. The amount of live coral cover on the reefs, the density of young colonies, and the overall size of the corals had all returned to the 1999 levels in just seven years. The recover was due in part to protected areas covering much of the reef surrounding Little Cayman.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She is also a PADI diver and dog lover. .

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