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Microplastic is the Newly Emerging Contaminants of the Antarctic Circle

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Recent research initiated by the University of Sienna discovered residues of microplastics within the guts of tiny Collembula, belonging to the group of Hexapods near King George Island. Antarctica, which had been facing threats due to several anthropogenic pollutions, now is at the brink of risking the food chain and bringing major disruption to the polar ecosystem.

Evidence shows the presence of Polystyrene – a kind of plastic material used in styrofoam found inside the body of the Collembola for the first time. Scientists assume that the collembola or the springtail had received them by ingesting micro-algae and lichens which were the primary consumer of such microparticles.

We have already witnessed a massive setback in Antarctica, with the exceeding rate of global warming that occurred for a consecutive five-year span between 20012-2017. Earlier, the Arctic, which has witnessed human settlement unlike the Antarctic, saw the disappearance of the polar sea ice, disrupting the natural eco-balance.

Later, a group of researchers from Germany reported the infiltration of the Arctic atmosphere with the emergence of a high concentration of microplastics. They confirmed almost 150 million tons of plastic litter polluting several water bodies near the region were degraded into smaller pieces by ocean waves and UV traditions. These plastic particles less than 5mm of size remain suspended in the air while the rest, meet the ground and get mixed into the snow.

However, the Antarctic, despite the 1959 treaty, which conserves the region only for peace and science only, is facing a similar threat with the redistribution of such microplastic particles through the top layer of the Antarctic soil.

With the emanation of microplastics into the Antarctic circle, Elisa Bergami of the University of Siena fears a rapid proliferation of these contaminating materials into the soil, which will be further consumed by other predators. If this continues, people’s unawareness about land pollution in the Antarctic region might posit a serious threat to its ecosystem, making it susceptible to further degradation in the later future.


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