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Overwhelming Majority Of Seabirds Will Have Plastic In Their Guts By 2050

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A new study found that majority of the seabird populations will have plastic in their guts by the year 2050. The overwhelming findings are said to truly surface should the present trends of marine pollution as well as hazardous environmental practices persist.

Oceans being polluted by plastic concerns the international community. As per estimates, about 580,000 plastic materials per km2 have concentrated the waters and this number continues to increase aggressively. Previous studies have provided proof that plastic pollution is indeed affecting the environment, particularly the wildlife; however, assessments of risk in a systematized manner have been lacking.

The researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)  and the Imperial College London performed a spatial analysis that involves the creation of a map, where the plastic debris are found in marine environments, followed by the detection of seabird population locations. The scientists then analyzed it alongside the information contained in more than 100 studies, conducted from 1962-2012, which investigated on the precise rate of plastic consumption of some 186 species of birds. In the said researches, 59 percent of the species had consumed plastic and 29 percent had plastic in their guts, on the average. Upon the standardization of the data, the investigators predicted that if these studies were performed today, the ingestion rate may reach by up to 90 percent. Further into the study, the researchers then adjusted their risk model and was able to come up with a 71 percent variation in plastic consumption in accordance to a model including time, method, exposure and body size. The researchers then utilized this model to predict the risk among birds internationally.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the area with the greatest impact of the study develops at the boundary separating New Zealand and Australia, particularly at the Southern Ocean line in the Tasman Sea. This result is quite surprising according to the researchers, as these areas are said to have low pressures from human-initiated pollution and sightings of materials/ debris in the marine environment.

In the end, the authors predicted that the consumption of plastic by seabirds is increasing and that the said phenomenon will affect about 99 percent of all species by the year 2050. The researchers now recommend the implementation of efficient waste management measures to decrease this hazardous threat.

In the early 1960s, the percentage of plastic ingestion by seabirds is only about 20 percent, but now it has gone up, says Dr. Chris Wilcox, the study lead author. From the investigations performed by the team, a change in trend is not expected to take place and instead a rise in plastic ingestion is estimated with nearly all seabird species affected by the consumption of plastic debris.

Photo: Trevor Leyenhorst | Flickr

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