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Seagrass Balls Filter Millions of Plastic Particles From Water, Says New Study


The Good News Network has covered how resilient and good for the climate seagrass beds are, but now a new study shows they can provide even more value to humans seeking to help heal the wounds inflicted on our planet.

Spanish researchers have documented that seagrass ‘Neptune balls’ can act as plastic mousetraps, entangling bits of debris in their leaves and thwarting their attempts to trick marine life into eating them.

Using mathematical extrapolation estimates, the researchers suggest that there could be up to 900 million pieces of plastic entangled in seagrass beds in the Mediterranean alone, representing “a continuous purge of plastic debris from the sea.”

“We show that plastic debris on the seabed can become trapped in seagrass debris, eventually leaving the marine environment through stranding,” said lead author Anna Sánchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona. AFP.

Neptune balls are tightly wound strings of vegetation from which the long leaves of seagrass sprout.

Jordi Regas / University of Barcelona

They are the size and shape of rugby balls, and while it is unclear whether the plastic harms the plant, their lifespan takes them to the beaches, thus removing the captured plastic from the ecosystem.

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The leaves also fulfill this function, and Sánchez-Vidal and his team discovered when collecting these castaways from the beaches of Mallorca, that half of the seaweed leaves contained debris, which is equivalent to about 600 pieces of plastic per kilo of leaves. .

In findings published in Scientific ReportsOn the other hand, only 17% of tightly knit Neptune balls contained plastic, yet they did so at a much higher rate, around 1,500 pieces per kilo.

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Seagrasses cover only 0.02 percent of the seafloor, but the 70 species of grasses that can grow from the Arctic to the tropics provide important ecosystem services for humans and other species.

They form the basis of coastal marine food systems, serve as nurseries for thousands of species of fish and crustaceans, and an important habitat for dugongs, manatees, rays, and seahorses. They also prevent beach erosion and protect coasts from the impacts of storm surges, reducing the damage they cause.

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In addition, they sequester CO2 at a rate 35% faster than terrestrial forests, which makes them true “lungs of the earth”.

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