What are Microplastics ?

Context

  • Recently Scientists have discovered microplastics in greater quantities than ever before on the seabed.

About Microplastics & Polychaetes

  • Microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size – are likely to accumulate most densely on the ocean floor in areas that are also biodiversity hotspots, intensifying the damage they may do to marine ecosystems.
  • Polychaetes, or “bristle worms”, live within the upper layers of sediment and actively mine it, and so can ingest buried microplastics that are decades old, showing that even when the pollutants fall to the seafloor they are not out of harm’s way and still have an impact on key ecosystems. 

Important Terms to Know

  • Thermohaline-driven circulations can control the distribution of microplastics by creating hotspots of accumulation , analogous to current’s role in depositing seafloor sediments.
  • The surface currents constitute about 10 % of all the water in the ocean, these waters are the upper 400 m of the ocean.
  • Deep Ocean Currents make up the other 90 % of the ocean water. These currents are driven by differences in the water’s density,which is controlled by temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline). This process is known as thermohaline circulation.

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