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Posidonia marine seagrass can catch and remove plastics from the sea - University of Barcelona

Diver swimming near a seagrass bed Photo: Jordi Regàs
This natural mechanism could trap about 867 million plastic per year in coastal areas. Photo: Jordi Regàs

Posidonia oceanica seagrass –an endemic marine phanerogam with an important ecological role in the marine environment- can take and remove plastic materials that have been left at the sea, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. The article’s first author is the tenure-track 2 lecturer Anna Sànchez-Vidal, from the Research Group on Marine Geosciences of the Faculty of Earth Sciences of the UB.

The study describes for the first time the outstanding role of the Posidonia as a filter and trap for plastics in the coastal areas, and it is pioneer in the description of a natural mechanism to take and remove these materials from the sea. Other authors of the study are the experts Miquel Canals, William P. de Haan and Marta Veny, from the Research Group on Marine Geosciences of the UB, and Javier Romero, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the UB.

A trap for plastics in coastal areas

The Posidonia oceanica makes dense prairies that make a habitat with a great ecological value (nutrition, shelter, reproduction, etc.) for marine biodiversity. As part of the study, the team analysed the trapping and extraction of plastic in great seagrasses of the Posidonia in the coasts of Majorca. “Everything suggests that plastics are trapped in the Posidonia seagrass. In the grasslands, the plastics are incorporated to agglomerates of natural fiber with a ball shape –aegagropila or Posidonia Neptune balls- which are expulsed from the marine environment during storms”, notes Anna Sànchez-Vidal, member of the Department of Ocean and Earth Dynamics of the UB.

“According to the analyses –she continues- the trapped microplastics in the prairies of the Posidonia oceanica are mainly filaments, fibers and fragments of polymers which are denser than the sea water such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET).”

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