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Plastic Pollution Phenomenon

Researchers at the Centre for Marine and Environmental Sciences (MARE) have discovered that some of the rocks around Madeira have plastic crusts, which they believe could be a new form of pollution. Although its origin is unknown, the new plastic crust or ‘plasticrosta’ as scientist Ignacio Gestoso calls it, could be caused by waves repeatedly throwing pieces of plastic debris against a rock face.  Due to tidal action, these crusts would then form on rocks like algae and lichens and unfortunately may replace the natural rock surfaces where sea creatures, such as barnacles feed.   If this is the case, then fragments of plastic can end up in the creature’s digestive tracts killing them or carry harmful pollutants that can affect humans if eaten.

Scientists have published the findings of their study in the Science of the Total Environment Scientific Journal and are now hoping to continue their research to discover how this coating forms on rocks, especially as this phenomenon seems to only occur on the south coast of Madeira.

MARE researchers originally discovered these plastic crusts in 2016, but on returning earlier this year, the team from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa returned only to find the rocks still embedded with plastic.

This has lead scientists to consider this a new form of marine litter.

Samantha Gannon

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Madeira Weekly