Microplastics have been found in the deepest parts of the ocean and this fact is causing a maddening conundrum. Although this problem is practically everywhere, very little is known about it. Traces of microplastics have been found in the peaks of pristine mountain ranges and they swirl hundreds of feet under the sea. They clot the small ocean critters from the smallest of shellfish to the regular fish at see.
However, very little data has been collected as to how far these microplastics have polluted in the ocean and even the mountain ranges. Most certainly, the presence of these microplastics affects the environment, but little is known as to how they affect the survival of the ecosystems. However, researchers found a group of small lakes in Canada that they believe will help them unravel the mystery surrounding microplastics.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development has a program called the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). This program allows researchers to keep the data collection within an isolated area. They were able to collect a pocket of water within the lake. They also tested for other forms of pollutants like flame retardants and hormones. They wanted to see how the members of the ecosystem in the area respond to the presence of these pollutants.
The study involving the lakes is pivotal in understanding how these microplastics are affecting the environment in general, primarily because the oceans do not lend itself well like a controlled environment.
"When animals are raised in the lab, it is basically putting them in a 5-star hotel," says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist from the University of Toronto. She is the co-author of the ELA work on microplastics. "They get all the food that they need and live with the organisms that they get along within nature. Perhaps the only stressor that researchers can add are the microplastics, whereas, in their natural environment, they are battling more stressors than just microplastics.
However, the controlled area of a lake makes up for a rather realistic environment. On top of that, the study concerning lakes has been ideal because they are situated in areas that are far from communities. The ELA team will be working on how the presence of microplastics affects the lake concentrations. The researchers are hopeful that they could use the information to perform more manipulative experiments in the future.
"What ends up in the studies about the lake will help us understand how these organisms thrive in an environment where pollutants such as microplastics exist."