Plastic Refuse Found On River Thames Is Bad News For Wildlife
Gerard LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum have discovered thousands of submerged pieces of plastic along the river bed of the upper Thames Estuary.
More than 8,000 pieces of plastic were collected by scientists while using nets to capture Chinese mitten crabs. The recovered plastic proves there is an unseen stream of toxic rubbish that could pose a real threat to not only the wildlife and ecosystem of the area, but also to the North Sea that the Thames flows into.
Items collected include a large number of cigarette packages, food wrappers, cups and more than a fifth of the items were stationary products.
According to the National History Museum, the Thames tide breaks up the plastic into smaller pieces and can be eaten by birds, fish and smaller animals. The chemicals from the plastic are then transferred through the food chain into the ecosystem, where they become a threat to other wildlife.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Dave Morritt, who is the Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Royal Holloway says, “The unusual aspect of the study is that these nets are originally designed to trap fish and crabs moving along the river bed, so we can see that the majority of this litter is hidden below the surface. This underwater litter must be taken into account when predicting the amount of pollution entering our rivers and seas, not just those items that we can see at the surface and washed up on shore.”
“The potential impacts this could have for wildlife are far reaching: not only are the species that live in and around the river affected, but also those in seas that rivers feed into,” adds Morritt.
Another co-author of the study, Dr. Paul Clark, from the National History Museum, says, “All of this waste, which was mostly plastic, was hidden underwater so Londoners probably don’t realise that it’s there. Plastic can have a damaging impact on underwater life.”
Scientists are vigorously pressing for changes in policies as well as consumer habits. The Natural History Museum is hosting a Plastic Awareness weekend on January 4-5, 2014.