Seagrass May Be a Powerful Pollution Fighter
Living on the sandy ocean bottom, the grass is catching and confining plastics and creating “Neptune Balls.”
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch — we are going back from whence we came. — John F. Kennedy
Seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean have been doing their best in the war against plastic ocean pollution. Mysterious orbs, named “Neptune balls,” appearing on beaches along the Spanish coast have revealed their true intent — survival of the oceans.
Prior research on the ocean floor had discovered that microplastics and nanoplastics had settled and became a part of the aquatic environment. Once there, they were incorporated into both bacteria and filter-feeding phytoplankton, which was then ingested by filter-feeding sea creatures.
And the activity went on from there to, ultimately, end up in the human food chain and consumption by adults and babies. The damage was done, and little could be done about it until now.
It seems that the oceans themselves have a solution that has been working against the hidden toxicity escaping our peering eyes. Now the ocean’s solution is becoming apparent. Seagrass meadows not only protect delicate beaches but the ocean as well.
The removal of microplastic accumulation in the marine environment is facilitated by the development of microbial biofilms that form on the microplastic surface. The production of these biofilms is through colonization by microorganisms. This film then provides a sticky matrix, perfect for adhesion to ocean vegetation.
New research surrounding the Neptune balls has shown that the seagrass meadows, while releasing dead vegetation, also binds up microplastic materials in the mix. The aggregation of both grass fibers and plastic debris is then expelled and lands on the beaches as part of Mother Nature’s cleaning ecosystem.
But the meadows themselves may be under attack by another force — urbanization. The decline of these meadows has been noted and some recovery is shown, but only by…