Antarctic Microplastic Hunt

Antarctic Microplastic Hunt
Antarctic Microplastic Hunt

In remote Antarctica, Colombian marine biologist Paulo Tigreros dips a net into the icy waters in his hunt for microplastics in what should be one of the best-preserved ecosystems in the world.

Like a sieve, the net lets water pass through as it retains the small solid particles that float in the Gerlache Strait, a natural corridor approximately 160 kilometers long separating the Palmer Archipelago and the end of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Microscopic studies and other tests on the samples will allow the team of scientists to determine the level of microplastics they contain.

Microplastics are particles made of polymers and other toxic compounds that are smaller than five millimeters, and have come under increasing global attention as they have been found in oceans, clouds, food and throughout the bodies of animals and humans.

Research carried out in 2019 by New Zealand's University of Canterbury revealed the existence of microplastics in Antarctic snow.

More than 430 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year worldwide, according to the UN.

Microplastics come from the breakdown of products such as synthetic car tires, textiles, and ordinary consumer products.

Little is yet known about their impact on human health and the environment.

Microplastics are already "omnipresent" in the oceans and their effects can be fatal for animals and ecosystems.

The tiny marine crustacean feeds on the microscopic algae known as phytoplankton, but often mistakes tiny microplastic particles for its food.

The Antarctic ice sheet, home to penguins and seals, has been suffering for years from rising global temperatures.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, in cooperation with Argentina, this month launched its first scientific research expedition to investigate the extent of microplastics in Antarctica.