ocean garbage patch

effect on organisms

Marine birds, such as albatross, or animals like sea turtles, live most of their lives at sea and just come ashore to mate. These organisms cant break down the plastic and they may eventually die (Figure 1.2). Boats may be affected. Plastic waste is estimated to kill 100,000 sea turtles and marine mammals annually, but exact numbers are unknown. Plastic shopping bags are extremely abundant in the oceans. If an organism accidentally ingests one, it may clog digestion and cause starvation by stopping food from moving through or making the animal not feel hungry. In some areas, plastics have seven times the concentration of zooplankton. This means that filter feeders are ingesting a lot of plastics. This may kill the organisms or the plastics may remain in their bodies. They are then eaten by larger organisms that store the plastics and may eventually die. Fish may eat organisms that have eaten plastic and then be eaten by people. This also exposes humans to toxic chemicals that the fish may have ingested with the plastic. There are similar patches of trash in the gyres of the North Atlantic and Indian oceans. The Southern Hemisphere has less trash buildup because less of the region is continent.

sources of trash

Although people had once thought that the trash found everywhere at sea was from ships, it turns out that 80% is from land. Some of that is from runoff, some is blown from nearshore landfills, and some is dumped directly into the sea. The 20% that comes from ships at sea includes trash thrown overboard by large cruise ships and many other vessels. It also includes lines and nets from fishing vessels. Ghost nets, nets abandoned by fishermen intentionally or not, float the seas and entangle animals so that they cannot escape. Containers sometimes go overboard in storms. Some noteworthy events, like a container of rubber ducks that entered the sea in 1992, are used to better understand ocean currents. The ducks went everywhere!


makeup of trash

About 80% of the trash that ends up in the oceans is plastic. This is because a large amount of the trash produced since World War II is plastic. Also many types of plastic do not biodegrade, so they simply accumulate. While many types of plastic photodegrade that is, they break up in sunlight this process only works when the plastics are dry. Plastic trash in the water does break down into smaller pieces, eventually becoming molecule-sized polymers. Other trash in the oceans includes chemical sludge and materials that do biodegrade, like wood.

toxic chemicals

Some plastics contain toxic chemicals, such as bisphenol A. Plastics can also absorb organic pollutants that may be floating in the water, such as the pesticide DDT (which is banned in the U.S. but not in other nations) and some endocrine disruptors.

the great pacific garbage patch

Trash from the lands all around the North Pacific is caught up in currents. The currents bring the trash into the center of the North Pacific Gyre. Scientists estimate that it takes about six years for trash to move from west coast of North America to the center of the gyre. The concentration of trash increases toward the center of the gyre. While recognizable pieces of garbage are visible, much of the trash is tiny plastic polymers that are invisible but can be detected in water samples. The particles are at or just below the surface within the gyre. Plastic confetti-like pieces are visible beneath the surface at the gyres center. This albatross likely died from the plastic it had ingested. The size of the garbage patch is unknown, since it cant be seen from above. Some people estimate that its twice the size of continental U.S, with a mass of 100 million tons.



marine trash

Trash from land may end up as trash in the ocean, sometimes extremely far from land. Some of it will eventually wash ashore, possibly far from where it originated (Figure 1.1).

instructional diagrams

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about _ of garbage is from land.

a) 50%

b) 60%

c) 70%

-->  d) 80%

80% of the trash that ends up in the oceans is

a) glass

b) oil

-->  c) plastic

d) chemical

plastic in the ocean

a) dissolves into toxic chemical sludge.

b) does not break down at all.

-->  c) breaks down into molecule-sized polymers.

d) biodegrades into nontoxic substances.

plastic trash may contain toxic chemicals like ____ that enter the ocean.

-->  a) bisphenol a

b) pesticides

c) herbicides

d) all of the above

these extremely abundant plastics, when ingested can clog digestion and cause starvation.

a) plastic bottle caps

-->  b) plastic shopping bags

c) plastic bottles

d) plastic cups

it takes about 100 years for trash to move from north america to the center of the north pacific gyre.

a) true

-->  b) false

the north pacific gyre is estimated to have a mass of 100 million tons.

-->  a) true

b) false

plastic trash in the oceans is hazardous to living things because

a) the trash contains toxic chemicals that can be ingested.

b) the trash can clog up an organisms digestive system.

c) a top predator may eat smaller organisms and accumulate all of their trash and toxic chemicals.

-->  d) all of these.

in the gyre, plastic is present as particles, confetti-like pieces and as intact trash.

-->  a) true

b) false

diagram questions

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