Scientists have discovered microplastics inside small organisms living in the soil in Antarctica, according to a new study published on Wednesday in the scientific journal Biology Letters. The new findings raise concerns that microplastics pollution has already deeply entered the world's most remote regions.
"Plastics have therefore entered even some of the most remote soil food webs on the planet, with potential risks for the whole biota and ecosystems," scientists of the study said.
The research team, which was headed by Italy's University of Siena, collected Cryptopygus antarcticus from a polystyrene foam covered in a green layer of micro-algae, moss and lichens on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands. These are small organisms commonly known as springtails that can jump in a similar way to fleas and are among the few organisms adapted to survive in the harsh Antarctic conditions.
Due to human activity in the area from scientific research stations, airport and military facilities, and tourism, the region has become "one of the most contaminated regions of Antarctica".
The researchers used an infrared imaging technique to find pieces of polystyrene, which is used in styrofoam, in the guts of the springtails. The researchers said that the organisms likely consumed the plastic fragments while eating their food.
According to Elisa Bergami of the University of Siena, the study showed that plastic pollution is "ubiquitous" and has reached even remote polar regions.
"Cryptopygus antarcticus has a key role in the simple Antarctic terrestrial food webs," Bergami told AFP.
"The implications of plastic ingestion by this species include the potential redistribution of microplastics through the soil profile and transfer to their common predators, the moss mites," she added.
While plastic pollution in oceans is already widely known, Bergami said that less attention is being paid to land pollution in Antarctica.Also Read: Scientists Find Human-Made Mercury Pollution In World's Deepest Ocean Trenches