The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has evolved into an entire ecosystem
Η απέραντη χωματερή που πλέει καταμεσής του Ειρηνικού Ωκεανού θεωρείται κλασικό παράδειγμα περιβαλλοντικής κατασfoods.
About 80.000 tons of trash of all kinds have been trapped in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in recent decades, the region where four powerful ocean currents meet to form a giant eddy.
With an area exceeding 1,5 million square kilometers, the Great Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii is the largest floating concentration of garbage in the world.
Ropes, bottles and toothbrushes are among 105 samples of plastic trash examined in the new study, samples collected in 2018 and 2019 as part of the Ocean Cleanup effort and frozen before being sent to a lab for analysis.
Sponges, oysters, anemones, crustaceans and cephalopods were some of the types of invertebrates found living and reigning over the plastics.
Of the 46 invertebrate species identified, 37 were species that normally occur near shore rather than in the middle of the ocean, the research team points out.
"We were surprised by how easily coastal species colonized floating objects, including our instruments," said Lindsey Haram of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Environmental Research, who led the study.
Many of the invertebrates found on top of the plastic trash come from the shores of Japan, and it's possible that they arrived in the garbage dump after the tsunami that hit the Japanese coast in 2011, Haram said.
"Our findings indicate that coastal organisms can now reproduce and grow in the open ocean—where they create a new community that didn't exist before," added Gregory Ruiz of the Smithsonian, also a member of the team.
But even as it shelters dozens of species of organisms, the researchers warned, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch favors the movement of alien species into the delicate ecosystems of Hawaii, which has remained isolated from land for millions of years.