Underwater meadows of a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean appear to trap some plastic debris that would otherwise drift out into the open ocean and pollute the bottom of the sea, a recent study has found. The seagrass Posidonia oceanica forms lush, extensive meadows in the Mediterranean’s temperate waters at depths down to 40 meters (130 feet). When sampling clusters of these plants from different beaches on the Spanish island of Mallorca in 2018 and 2019, researchers from the University of Barcelona found that they formed natural bundles of fiber. These are known as “Neptune balls” — and they can catch items of plastic waste. Seagrass meadow of the coast of Mallorca Island, Spain. Image by Jordi Regas. An illustration of how seagrass can trap plastic debris. Image courtesy of Sanchez-Vidal et al. (2021). Thanks to its long, ribbon-like leaves, P. oceanica may trap nearly 900 million pieces of plastic debris each year, and all without human intervention, the researchers wrote in a study published Jan. 14 in the journal Scientific Reports. They found plastic debris in half of the loose seagrass samples, at up to 600 plastic pieces per kilogram of leaves. In addition, 17% of the Neptune balls contained plastic, but at a much higher density — nearly 1,500 pieces per kilogram of seaball. “We knew that seaballs were trapping plastics but what we didn’t expect were such high concentrations per kilogram of natural fibers,” lead author Anna Sanchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona, told…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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