What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
The study, which took a “citizen science” approach to data collection, is the first of its kind in Switzerland. More than 150 trained volunteers participated. In total, they examined 95,971 pieces of litter collected on the shores of Swiss rivers and lakes.
“We documented for first time marked changes in the pelagic food web length in response to various natural and anthropogenic related stressors,” said lead author Rocio I. Ruiz-Cooley, formerly of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and now at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “This tells us that the food web is very dynamic, and reveals changes with the ecosystem around it.”
More than five trillion pieces of plastic are estimated floating on the surface of the world’s oceans. It has been claimed that there is now enough plastic to form a permanent layer in the fossil record.
In the Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Maui, coral reef degradation has caused sea floor depths to increase as sand and other sea floor materials have eroded over the past few decades, the USGS study found. In the waters around Maui, the sea floor losses amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material – about what it would take to fill up the Empire State Building 81 times, the researchers calculated.
We now have a 2017 event, which is not quite as bad as 2016, but certainly worse than the first two events that we studied [in 1998 and 2002]. That is significant because it postpones any hope of recovery. The current bleaching occupies a different geographical footprint from last year, which is bad news because it means between last year and this year a much greater extent of the Great Barrier Reef has now been damaged. In 2017, the hot water was in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, the central section; last year it was in the north.
Some of the largest population declines, according to the report, include terns at 85.8 percent. Frigatebirds decline by up to 81.7 percent. Petrels declines followed at 79.6 percent, while cormorants and shags populations dropped by up to 73.6 percent.