Billions of pounds of garbage is thrown in the sea every year. A massive rise in the past 40 years in the amount of plastic debris floating around in the Pacific Ocean may have ecosystem-wide consequences.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California, San Diego published a report in May 2012 that states that a 100-fold rise in human-produced plastic garbage in the ocean is altering habitats in the marine environment.
In 2009 a group of graduate students led the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) to the North Pacific Ocean Subtropical Gyre. The researchers focused on an area a thousand miles west of California. They documented an alarming amount of human-generated trash, mostly broken down fragments of plastic floating across thousands of miles of ocean.
The new study by Scripps, published, May 9, reveals that plastic debris in the area popularly known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has increased by 100 times over in the past 40 years.
Habitual changes in the marine life have already been noted. The natural habitat of small sea creatures such as ‘sea skaters’ has been altered. They normally lay their eggs on naturally occurring flotsam. The study shows that these creatures, closely related to pond water skaters are using floating debris for their eggs causing a rise in insect egg densities in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
Naturally existing surfaces for their eggs include, for example: seashells, seabird feathers, tar lumps and pumice. In the new study researchers found that sea skaters have exploited the influx of plastic garbage as new surfaces for their eggs. This has led to a rise in the insect's egg densities.
These changes may seem small but may have escalating consequences for animals across the marine food chain.
It is quoted that fourteen billion pounds of garbage, mostly plastic, is dumped into the ocean every year.