Week 2: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Welcome back to my Blog,
This week I focused my research on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch(GPGP). Through my internship at the New York Aquarium, my advisor shared an article about the GPGP covering many factors including how plastic enters the ocean, how much plastic has accumulated, location, and types of plastic. The GPGP is located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California covering about 1.6 million km squared of trash which is equivalent to roughly three times the size of France.
Plastic has mainly entered the oceans through rivers and gets carried by ocean currents and some eventually accumulate with GPGP. The more plastic that is absorbed by the patch, the greater the threat the garbage batch poses to the ocean. As of now the GPGP is composed of more than 1.8 trillion pieces of trash all with different masses and density. The GPGP is mainly composed of fishing nets, plastic, ropes, foam products and pre-production plastics. Fragments that are more towards the outside of the GPGP are more likely to degrade sooner into micro-plastics and sink down to the ocean floors where they can have catastrophic consequences on aquatic life.
When it comes to the consequences on aquatic life, it can impact in many ways such as entanglement, bioaccumulation through consumption, toxic for sea surface eaters, and depriving primary producers on ocean floor of sunlight resulting in a decrease in population leading a trophic cascade in the food chain. Entanglement has the biggest consequences for sea turtles and other creatures that need to swim up to the surface for air since being tangled up can cause a sea turtle to be unable to move one of its fins preventing it from reaching the surface. Bioaccumulation is when micro-plastics are consumed mistakenly by sea creatures where the plastics will act as a toxic material harming the creature, but the more plastic that is consumed, the more it will build up and spread throughout the food chain once the fish that consumed the plastics gets consumed by a predator.
The GPGP is a prime example of what plastic can do in the ocean overtime, becoming large accumulations and spreading large toxic pieces into the environment. I plan on continuing researching more about the GPGP and how scientists and researchers are attempting to solve the situation.
Until next week.