"One of the benefits of understanding the Plastisphere right now and how it interacts with biota in general, is that we are better able to inform materials scientists on how to make better materials and, if they do get out to sea, have the lowest impact possible," said Mincer, who discovered the Plastisphere last year along with Linda Amaral-Zettler at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and Erik Zettler at the SEA Education Association, both also in Woods Hole.
The Plastisphere team is presenting their latest research on these communities today at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting, which is co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union.
Other new results include discoveries about how the plastic is colonized and how it interacts with other marine organisms. Yet additional findings shed light on the similarities and differences between Plastisphere communities in different locations and on different types of plastic. This research could help scientists determine the age of plastic floating in the ocean, which could help them figure out how it breaks down in the water. It could also potentially aid in determining where the plastic debris came from, and how the plastic and the microbes that live on board could impact organisms that come into contact with them, the scientists said.
"It is clear," said Amaral-Zettler, "that the Plastisphere definitely has a function out there in the ocean" and these experiments seek to quantify what it is.
|Contact: Mary Catherine Adams|
American Geophysical Union