Plastic waste prevents marine animal reproduction
A recent University of Portsmouth study discovered plastic waste discourages small marine creatures from reproducing. Ecotoxicologist Alex Ford and his colleagues tested a few chemical additives on a specific species. They found all tested substances can reduce the crustaceans’ mating success by changing their behavior.
We may not admit it, but humanity significantly impacts the environment. Unfortunately, our carelessness pollutes our surroundings and distorts nature’s intended course. If we don’t do something as soon as possible, we might say goodbye to a huge part of our ecosystem soon. Understanding this problem could help us find a solution.
This article will discuss how plastic waste prevents tiny crustaceans from reproducing. Later, I will share a few pollution impacts you may have never heard of before.
How does plastic waste affect marine animals?
Most think large animals like sharks have the largest impact on our marine ecosystem. Yet, minuscule, shrimp-like crustaceans are some of the most essential aspects of the undersea food chain.
“These creatures are commonly found on European shores, where they make up a substantial amount of the diet of fish and birds,” says ecotoxicologist Alex Ford. For example, whales usually eat krill as their staple diet.
“If they are compromised, it will have an effect on the whole food chain,” he added. That is why environmental toxicologist Bidemi Green-Ojo and colleagues exposed a tiny malacostracan crustacean species called Echinogammarus marinus to four chemical additives found in plastic.
“We chose these four additives because the suspected danger they pose to human health is well-documented,” stated Green-Ojo. “Two of the chemicals we investigated (DBP and DEHP) are regulated and not allowed to be used in products in Europe.”
“The other two chemicals have no current restrictions on them and are found in many household products. We wanted to test the effects these chemicals had on aquatic mating behavior,” he added.
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Three of these substances are in the top 30 chemicals detected in England’s surface and groundwater. Also, all tested substances could reduce the sea creatures’s mating success by shifting their behavior.
Two of the sample chemicals, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), reduced the crustaceans’ sperm count. “Although the animals we tested were exposed to much higher concentrations than you would normally find in the environment, the results indicate these chemicals can affect sperm count,” Ford explained.
“It is conceivable that if we did the experiment on shrimps that had been exposed for a longer period or during critical stages in their life history. It would affect their levels and quality,” he added.
What are the newly discovered effects of pollution?
Scientists have been studying the impacts of pollution, so we continue to find new ones. For example, did you know traffic emissions can interfere with our sense of smell?
University of Eastern Finland researcher Laura Mussalo said, “The olfactory system has been found to mediate the effects of environmental pollutants on the brain, thus contributing to the pathogenesis of brain diseases.”
“However, the exact signaling pathways through which the effects are mediated remain unknown,” she added. Mussalo and colleagues found significant changes in various gene expressions.
These include inflammatory response, xenobiotic metabolism, olfactory signaling, and olfactory mucosa from exposure to fossil and renewable diesel sources.
However, renewable diesel had fewer negative effects compared to fossil diesel. Also, after-treatment devices minimized the cell operation changes caused by renewable diesel particles.
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More experts have been spreading awareness about another form of pollution called light pollution. It refers to the excessive illumination from urban lighting.
DarkSky International is one of the nonprofit organizations that spread awareness about light pollution. Its website highlights how it harms human health, fauna, flora, and our heritage. The nonprofit said modern cities expose us to artificial illumination 24/7, increasing our risk for these health conditions:
- Heart disease
- Sleep disorders
Light pollution also disturbs our ecosystems because plants and animals have circadian rhythms, too. For example, it has caused many birds to crash into bright buildings.
Artificial lights have also caused birds to migrate too early or too late. That interrupts their mating seasons, causing their extinction. It has also caused many things we associate with nighttime to fade.
University of Portsmouth researchers found that plastic waste prevents marine animals from reproducing. Specifically, it affects tiny crustaceans, which are an important food source for most undersea creatures.
Their work and other studies could help global leaders realize the gravity of the climate change situation. In turn, they would likely enforce more substantial measures against this problem.
Learn more about this plastic waste study on its ScienceDirect webpage. Moreover, check out more digital tips and trends at Inquirer Tech.