Plastisphere

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 6:03 PM

Plastic that ends up in the ocean has been shown to kill animals like whales, birds, and fish. A simple google image search will show you millions of disturbing photos of how dirty the ocean is and how it can hurt animals. The plastic gets into the ocean by littering and mismanagement of waste. Despite many campaigns to raise awareness of this issue tonnes of plastic get into the ocean every year. Most of the plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that float near the top of the sea. These little pieces were discovered to grow a wide variety of microorganism, called the plastisphere, that are not found in the surrounding waters and some of these organism are able to breakdown plastic (Zettler, 2013).
Abstract Image

As a microbiologist hearing this gives me hope that we have not completely destroyed oceans. One of the concerns though is that the bacteria are pathogenic. When I heard about bacteria that can break down oil or a fungus that can eat plastic my next thought was, "Why don't we use this in our landfills (Russell, 2011)?" It appears nature and I were on the same wave length. Lets just hope that we continue to innovate and get away from polluting and that the ocean can bounce back.

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References:

Zettler ER, Mincer TJ, Amaral-zettler LA. Life in the "plastisphere": microbial communities on plastic marine debris. Environ Sci Technol. 2013;47(13):7137-46.

Russell JR, Huang J, Anand P, et al. Biodegradation of polyester polyurethane by endophytic fungi. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011;77(17):6076-84.

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