Arctic deep-sea litter doubles in last decade

Arctic deep-sea litter doubles in last decade

Arctic deep-sea litter doubles in last decade

Scientists have found the amount of debris lying on the ocean floor in the Arctic has doubled over the past decade.

Melanie Bergmann, a biologist and deep-sea expert at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research, revealed it Tuesday. Her findings were published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin and based on photos of the seafloor taken near the AWI deep-sea observatory Hausgarten.

Bergmann studied 2,100 seafloor photographs made at a depth of 2,500 metres in the Fram Strait near Hausgarten deep-sea observatory. The camera took a photograph every 30 seconds.

"When looking through our images I got the impression that plastic bags and other litter on the seafloor were seen more frequently in photos from 2011 than in those dating back to earlier years.

"For this reason I decided to go systematically through all photos from 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2008. Waste can be seen in around one percent of the images from 2002, primarily plastic.

"In the images from 2011 we made the same discovery on around two percent of the footage. The quantity of waste on the seabed has therefore doubled," Bergmann said.

The biologist added that 70 percent of the litter in some way affects flora and fauna of the seabed, reducing their growth and slowing their reproductive processes. In addition, plastic contain toxins that also affect the environment.

Hausgarten deep-sea observatory consists of 16 stations covering water depths of between 1,000 and 5,500 metres. Since 1999 samples were taken annually at these stations every year during the summer months.

The year-round deployment of moorings and free-falling systems that act as observation platforms on the sea bed enable seasonal measurements.