PARIS | The microplastics seeps throughout the oceans of the globe: they pollute even one of the terrestrial ecosystems in the most remote, in the Antarctic, according to a study published on Wednesday.
Scientists have found fragments of polystyrene in the bowels of springtails, tiny arthropods on land, according to the article published in the journal Biology Letters.
Particles of plastic have already been discovered in living organisms to the four corners of the oceans, to the bottom of the Mariana trench, the deepest known.
But “contamination on land has been largely neglected”, noted the authors of the study published Wednesday.
They are focused on the situation of the coasts of the island of King George, one of the regions “the most contaminated” in the Antarctic because of the presence of stations, scientific research, infrastructure, military and even tourism.
They were taken between the rocks, a piece of expanded polystyrene covered with microalgae and lichens, the food of choice for cryptopygus antarcticus, among the only organisms able to survive in the climatic conditions of the Antarctic.
Springtails found on this piece have been analyzed thanks to the techniques of infrared imaging that allowed to detect “unequivocal” traces of polystyrene in the intestines of a small animal that can jump like a flea.
The fact that these springtails, which are very present in the soils of the Antarctic – the parts not covered with ice, which represent less than 1% of the territory – “ingest microplastics implies that these materials created by Man are entered in depth into the food chain of the soil”, the authors write.
“The plastic has entered the food chains land the most remote on the planet”: it “represents a new stressor potential to polar ecosystems that are already facing climate change and increased human activities,” they warned.
The researchers stress that the problem posed specifically by the expanded polystyrene, in which the porous structure allows the installation of mosses and microalgae, which attract other organisms.
The effects of ingestion of microplastics by animals, marine or terrestrial, are still poorly known, and teams around the world are seeking to assess the impact of chemicals associated with plastics, or even pathogens that can be attached on the floating debris.
The authors of the study call them also to continue the research on the consequences of the ingestion of plastic on the springtails and their predators.