Underwater seagrass meadows can assist in removing ocean plastic

Underwater seagrass meadows can assist in removing ocean plastic from the seas by trapping, extracting and carrying it to the shores, a new study reveals.

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Barcelona analysed seagrass litter from four beaches in Mallorca, Spain. They found plastic debris among half of 42 loose seagrass leaf samples and intertwined in 17% of 198 balls of seagrass fibres, known as Neptune balls.

Seagrass meadows are widespread in shallow coastal waters and are involved in trapping and binding sediment particles that form the seabed. These seagrass meadows also provide important ecosystem services and benefits, such as water quality improvement; CO2 absorption; climate change mitigation; sediment production for seafloor and beach stabilisation; coastal protection; nursery and refuge areas for many species, and support in fisheries production.

Findings from the University of Barcelona study also found up to 613 and 1,470 plastic items were found per kg of loose leaves and Neptune balls, respectively. It also found that Mediterranean seagrass meadows may trap up to 867 million plastic items in Neptune balls alone each year, although the number of these carried to shore and the fate of plastic once washed ashore is unknown.

The research team’s findings suggest that seagrass meadows may help counteract marine plastic pollution. As previous research found that seagrass areas in the Mediterranean Sea have decreased by up to 50 per cent since 1960, seagrass meadow conservation should remain a priority, according to the authors.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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