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Microplastics in the ocean: A deep dive on plastic pollution in Monterey Bay

There’s a vast ecosystem stretching far below the ocean’s surface — the largest habitat on Earth. But even there, a place that seems a world apart from human society, our plastic trash is building up. In the deep sea, it’s a challenge to study where that plastic accumulates and how it affects animals. So scientists at MBARI and our partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium launched an ambitious collaboration. Initiated at MBARI, the study brings together talented engineers and ecologists who are equipped to creatively and carefully carry out targeted sampling in the deep sea. This is the first study to look systematically at microplastics, with repeated sampling at the same locations and a range of depths, from just beneath the ocean surface to depths of 1,000 meters. Everywhere they looked, from the surface to the depths 3,000 feet down, the research team found plastic. The study shows that microplastic particles are not only common from the surface to the seafloor, but they’re also being eaten by animals like giant larvaceans and pelagic red crabs. The most abundant types of plastic found in the research match those commonly used in consumer products—suggesting most of the microplastic in Monterey Bay is from land-based trash that makes its way to the ocean. Removing microplastic from the ocean may be virtually impossible, and the researchers urge that making and using less plastic in the first place is one of the most effective means of solving the ocean plastic problem. Learn more about this research:
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