Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scientists find Arctic sea ice is full of plastic

German research icebreaker Polarstern above the Lomonossov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean where microplastics have been found in record levels. Photo: Rudiger Stein/Alfred-Wegener-Institut/PA Wire
German research icebreaker Polarstern above the Lomonossov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean where microplastics have been found in record levels. Photo: Rudiger Stein/Alfred-Wegener-Institut/PA Wire

Josh Gabbitiss in London

Scientists have found an unprecedented number of microplastics frozen in Arctic sea ice, demonstrating the alarming extent to which they are pervading marine environments.

Analysis of ice cores from across the region found levels of the pollution were up to three times higher than previously thought. Each litre of sea ice contained around 12,000 particles of plastic, which scientists are now concerned are being ingested by native animals.

Based on their analysis, the researchers were even able to trace the tiny fragments' paths from their places of origin, from fishing vessels in Siberia to everyday detritus that had accumulated in the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. "We are seeing a clear human imprint in the Arctic," the study's first author, Dr Ilka Peeken, said.

"It suggests that microplastics are now ubiquitous within the surface waters of the world's ocean," said Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, a sea ice physicist at the British Antarctic Survey who was not involved with the study. "Nowhere is immune."

Dr Peeken and her team at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research collected ice core samples over the course of three expeditions on the research icebreaker Polarstern.

Their voyages covered five regions along the Transpolar Drift and Fram Strait, which channel sea ice from the Central Arctic to the North Atlantic.

Independent News Service

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