Researchers have developed a new algorithm that can trace the origination of ocean debris that make up monster garbage patches.
A group of researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, suggest that there are five major garbage patches floating on the Earth's oceans located in south and north Pacific Ocean, middle of Indian Ocean and in the south and north of Atlantic Ocean. The latest research builds upon a previous study that estimates how plastic debris makes their way through ocean currents.
The researchers explain that the new mathematical model used for the study divided the oceans of the planet into seven different regions, where mixing of the water is very little. The scientists explain that the oceans have circular currents, which are called gyres that are responsible for trapping and sucking in the floating debris on the ocean surface. They observed these ocean currents to get an understanding on the origination of the debris.
The model developed by the scientists at UNSW also determine the countries, which contribute the most to one of the five garbage patches.
Gary Froyland, who is a mathematician at the UNSW and a researcher of the study, explains that sometimes there are countries that are far away from one of the garbage patch, but they still contribute directly to the growth of the garbage patch. Froyland gives an example and describes that ocean debris, which generates from Mozambique and from Madagascar, flows in the garbage patch of south Atlantic, while both the countries have a coastline with the Indian Ocean.
Plastic is the major component of all the five monster garbage patches. From a distance they look like a garbage island but actually they are a very thin layer of plastic floating on the surface of the water. Large bits of plastic are usually broken down by ultraviolet light and churning waves. The toxic chemicals from plastic are also dangerous to humans as they may get transferred via the food chain.
Ocean pollution is on the rise for several decades and a lot of garbage is dumped to the planet's water bodies by many countries on a daily basis. The garbage is usually dropped by boats, washed from beaches and flushed downstream from rivers. The dumping of garbage in oceans has affected marine life and conservationists suggest that it has to be a global effort to reduce garbage dumping in oceans.
The new study is relevant as it can help to trace origination of pollutants including oil spills.
The study has been published in the journal Chaos.