School Email Exchange

Are organisms adapting to the plastic in the ocean?  If so, would its removal disturb the habitat?

Posted on October 28 2012

Question submitted by Lewiston High School

A boat's bumper floating in the ocean before we brought it aboard.

Yes, organisms appear to be adapting to the plastic in the ocean.  When we pull a buoy or ball or a piece of insulation out of the ocean there is growth of lots of different organisms such as bacteria, algae, gooseneck barnacles and Planes crabs.

Once aboard, we examine the island of life, mostly gooseneck barnacles, that has taken advantage of the bumper as a substrate.

An interesting find on one piece of macroplastic brought aboard today was a limpet, an intertidal species, floating with its plastic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists are continuing to research this topic as it is important to understand how the ecosystem of the environment has been affected by the introduction of plastic.