According to a recent study, as many as 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic in their lifetime. And if matters remain as they are at the moment, the number could easily jump to 99% by 2050.
It is widely known that plastic is extremely dangerous to seabirds, but the proportions of the impact that plastic waste has on these birds might come as a shock to most. And when 9 in 10 seabirds have ingested plastic during their lifetime, it is time to make some serious changes, because the consequences on the environment will be immense if seabirds fade away one plastic item at a time.
This recent study was a review of scientific papers that focused on the effects of plastic waste on seabirds. The research team used studies from 1962 and up to 2012, and then created a scientific model that could predict the progression of the matter.
The study was led by Dr. Erik van Sebille of the Imperial College London and by Dr. Chris Wilcox and Dr. Denise Hardesty of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia, and it was carried out as an Ocean Conservancy research project.
“One clear implication of our research is that seabird ingestion rates scale with plastic exposure”, concluded the study.
This means that the more plastic gets in the oceans, the more tempted will the seabirds be to ingest it, as the tiny bits of plastic waste look like amazing prey to them. Furthermore, Dr. van Sebille points out that by 2050, basically any seabird found dead “will have a bit of plastic in its stomach”.
As plastic production is increasing every year globally, the amount of plastic waste is also growing at a staggering rate and it seems it will have devastating effects on aquatic environments from all around the world.
The study had one optimistic conclusion though. The researchers pointed out that unlike climate change, the effects of plastic waste are both controllable and reversible. This means that introducing more efficient methods of dealing with plastic waste, that ensure that the amount of plastic that makes its way into the oceans is decreased considerably, could actually drastically reduce the number of birds that ingest plastic.
The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS and it constitutes a true wake-up call for society. It is within our reach to reduce the massive proportions of this issue and hopefully new and more effective means of dealing with plastic waste will actually have an extremely visible effect on the current state of this matter.
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