Do you know what the "plastisphere" is? It is a new ecosystem created by organisms (bacteria, viruses, algae, etc.) colonising plastic waste in the sea and ocean. The presence and diversity of potentially dangerous living organisms carried by plastic debris and the dominant interactions between them call for constant monitoring through sampling campaigns.
The presence of potentially dangerous and pathogenic micro-organisms and their impact on the marine environment and on mankind is one of the latest challenges of plastic pollution. It is the subject of a scientific study recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution. The study was conducted using samples collected by Expédition MED's Citizen Laboratory of Participatory Science, led by Linda Amaral-Zettler, a biologist at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.
Entitled "Microbial interactions in the Mediterranean 'plastisphere’", the study shows the influence of biogeography on the structure of microbial communities present on plastic waste in the Mediterranean Sea and reveals the importance of constantly monitoring this ecosystem through sampling campaigns.
Map of plastic sampling points (2017-2018) and their abundance. Credit: Expédition MED
With support from SUEZ and the help of volunteers, samples were taken in Mediterranean waters and a number of rivers including the Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas, the Huveaune, Var, Golo and Arno rivers, the ports of Marseille, Nice, and Bastia in France, and Marina di Pisa in Italy.
Citizen-led participatory science: a new way to advance our knowledge and inventories of the environment and biodiversity
Expédition MED's Citizen Laboratory of Participatory Science is a way for amateur volunteers with no specific qualifications to help advance our knowledge and inventories of the environment and biodiversity.
By bringing together scientists and citizens, these research programmes offer more collaborative governance of the natural resources that make up our common good.