Day 73 – Q 2.How is excessive plastic use impacting the marine ecosystem? What are its adverse effects on marine biodiversity? Discuss.
2. How is excessive plastic use impacting the marine ecosystem? What are its adverse effects on marine biodiversity? Discuss.
अत्यधिक प्लास्टिक का उपयोग समुद्री पारिस्थितिकी तंत्र को कैसे प्रभावित करता है? समुद्री जैव विविधता पर इसके प्रतिकूल प्रभाव क्या हैं? चर्चा करें।
As per IUCN report, over 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year of which around 13 million metric tons of plastic ends in marine ecosystem.
Excess plastic impacting marine ecosystem:
Firstly, excessive plastic covers the top layer of the ocean water and prevent sunlight which impact marine ecosystems like Corals.
Secondly, the most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species which affect the food chain and the entire marine ecosystem.
Thirdly, plastic being a petroleum product adds to the global warming and hence results in ocean warming as well as ocean acidification.
Finally, the release of chemicals leads to toxicity of ocean water which is a threat to marine ecosystem survival.
Adverse effects on marine biodiversity:
According to the United Nations, at least 800 species worldwide are affected by marine debris, and as much as 80 percent of that litter is plastic.
- Plastic consumption: Marine species suffer due to plastic debris. As per UN report,
- On many beaches, plastic pollution is so pervasive that it’s affecting turtles’ reproduction rates by altering the temperatures of the sand where incubation occurs.
- Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds a year.
- Pathogen development: Plastic waste can encourage the growth of pathogens in the ocean. According to a recent study, scientists concluded that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89 percent chance of contracting disease, compared with a 4 percent likelihood for corals that do not.
- Ghost nets: Sea turtles are also the most common victims of ‘Ghost Nets’ in the ocean and also harms the marine life by choking life-forms or by getting tangled in precious reefs, causing them to break apart.
- Plastic food chain: Plastic waste in the oceans also threatens the life of birds and other beings that depend on the oceanic life-forms for their food requirements.
- Ocean water pollution and toxicity: the amount of garbage in the seas also pollutes the oceanic waters. Toxic substance such as Bisphenol A, which has been found commonly in many plastic commodities, pollutes the water badly which makes it inhabitable.
- The garbage patches that are found like the great pacific garbage patch etc., are highly toxic and has high marine species mortality.
- Invasive species: Ocean garbage in the form of plastic also leads to invasion of non-indigenous species and organisms in naturally occurring marine colonies, thus posing a threat to the functioning of ecosystems. The billions of micro-plastic particles floating in the ocean are all potential carriers of non-indigenous invasive species.
- Though, some species do not directly consume plastic, accumulation of toxicity through food chain is high.
- Microplastics are a major source of plastic pollution which is ingested even by small fishes and thus has potential to impact entire marine species.
Plastic in the sea is a result of human callousness. Since the annual consumption of plastic has been increasing every year globally, the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the seas also increasing drastically. And, in addition to the ill effects to the marine ecosystem, the plastic pollution also creates negative impacts on the economy as it affects sectors including tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, among others.
At the current rate of plastic pollution, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050 as per UNEP. Thus, there is an urgent need for integrated and collaborated national and international intervention to address the issue.