Plastisphere. A neologism that scientists had to create to name the mess we humans make. A multitude of bacteria and microorganisms living on plastic waste floating in the oceans affect the marine ecosystem by posing potential harm to fish fauna, but also to humans themselves. What is of greater concern is the fact that the plastisphere bacteria populations are distinct from the typical marine microbial flora, which means that the plastic serves as a new ocean ecological habitat. Because these are poorly degradable wastes with extremely long lives(in this article you will find all the degradation times of some common products, including plastic products), it is not easy to predict what the long-term ecological consequences might be.
PLASTISPHERE CROSSROADS OF HARMFUL BACTERIA
Based on a 2014 study, it was found that there are about 1,000 different types of microbes inhabiting the plastisphere, including those that cause disease in humans and animals. And they proliferate with disarming ease: it just seems that some dangerous bacteria are especially at home on plastic, reproducing at an uncommon rate.
The image on the side here, taken from ecoblog, shows a scanning electron microscope photo of the bacterial community on a strand of plastic material collected from the sea (shown in the box at lower right). The white notches represent a scale of 10 µm.
INSIDE THE FISH?
Scientists are trying to understand whether such pathogen-carrying microorganisms can spread through fish that ingest plastic, moreover acquiring additional nutrients by passing through their guts.
TO KNOW IN ORDER TO ACT
Knowing about the plastisphere, discovered only last year, will help scientists understand the true extent of the phenomenon and its incisiveness in the global marine ecosystem, including the possibility of altering nutrients in the water. Each “plastic island” has its own differences, depending on the type of plastic, with its own microorganisms. There is no question that the plastisphere has a function in the oceans and seas: it remains to be understood-that is the purpose of the current study-what exactly it is and how it can be counteracted.