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#1 User is offline   MTP Reggie 

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 08:13 AM

How Plastic Cleanup Threatens the Ocean's Living Islands
Home to vibrantly colored, tiny creatures, the ecosystems floating on the ocean's surface remain all but unknown.
REBECCA HELM
JAN 22, 2019
The Atlantic

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Imagine you're on a small boat in the middle of the open ocean, surrounded by what looks like a raft of plastic. Now flip the whole world upside down. You remain comfortably attached to your seatóthe abyss towers above you, and all around, stretching up from the water's surface, is an electric-blue meadow of life. What you thought was plastic is actually a living island. This meadow is made up of a diverse collection of animals. The most abundant are blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors, with bright-blue bodies that dot the sky like suns, and deep-purple snails found in patches so dense one scientist described collecting more than 1,000 in 20 minutes.

This is the neuston, a whole ecosystem living at the ocean's surface. I once stumbled upon a raft of neuston when a storm blew it ashore in California. Many neustonic animals are vibrant highlighter colors, and the sand was saturated in bright blues and pale pinks. Together, these small creatures may function like upside-down coral reefs: an oasis of shelter and life far out to sea. As far back as the Cold War era, scientists were describing these colorful and important ecosystems, yet they still remain all but unknown. But now, as efforts to clean the ocean of plastic start up, our ignorance is putting this ecosystem at risk.

The neuston is home to more than blue buttons and bright snails. Erupting through the lawn of blue are crackling purple, red, gold, and yellow strands. These are Portuguese man o' wars, whose tentacles stretch like lightning from the meadows of blue and pink. And among them, dragons roam.

Small nudibranchs, known as blue sea dragons, feast on blue buttons and man o' wars, using their winglike cerata to grab and hold onto their tentacled prey. There are sea anemones, barnacles, copepods, color-changing crabs, specialized bacteria, even bugs, all living in this inverted reef in the middle of the open ocean. (Organisms that live exclusively by floating at the surface of the water are called pleuston, while neuston is a broader term, referring generally to the sea-surface ecosystem, which is why I chose to use it here.)

Just like reefs on the seafloor, this ecosystem does not stand apart from the open ocean around it. The neuston is a nursery for multiple species of larval fish and a hunting ground for paper nautilus octopuses. It supports sunfish, leatherback turtles, and diverse ocean grazers, which frequent these islands, relying on them as a food source. At night, soft-bodied jellies rise up to join the neuston, sparkling like fireflies. But all of this, from the blue sea dragons to the by-the-wind sailors, is in peril.

When I learned about the Ocean Cleanup project's 600-meter-long barrier with a three-meter-deep net, a wall being placed in the open ocean, ostensibly to collect plastic passively as the currents push water through the net, I thought immediately of the neuston. How will it be impacted? But in the 146 pages of the Ocean Cleanup's environmental-impact assessment, this ecosystem isn't mentioned once.

I was disturbed by this omission. Though the neuston isn't known to many people, it is certainly known to marine biologists. Evidence that the Ocean Cleanup knows about the neuston is clear from a table reporting animals in the vicinity of the Ocean Cleanup deployment area, where both blue buttons and by-the-wind sailors are listed. But the ecosystem itself is never discussed. By omitting the neuston from its assessment, the project is overlooking the habitat it could be impacting most, and there is no sense of what the damage might be. Because the impact report didn't provide any answers, I went looking for my own.


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#2 User is online   zurg 

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 12:28 PM

To the cleanup efforts: oopsie.
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#3 User is offline   usapatriot 

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Posted 23 January 2019 - 11:29 PM

Whatever the looney left (in this case environmental wackos) touches, they destroy. I'm not saying that plastic isn't a problem in our oceans, but lefties never think with their minds. It's ALWAYS virtue signaling with them. "Oooo...look at me, I'm so much better than you 'cause I care about the environment and I'm doing something about it". Just like these idiots buying electric cars because they don't want to burn fossil fuel. Most of their electricity is generated from burning coal or natural gas (fossil fuels) and it has been shown that the amount of fossil fuel used to power an all electric car versus an internal combustion engine (that gets at least 34 mpg) is actually MORE! Now who's wrecking the planet? Now, you environmental wackos are probably saying to yourself, well, the average car doesn't get 34 mpg. True. But, if you REALLY cared about the environment and thought with your BRAIN, then you would get a Prius instead of an all electric car. My sister has a Prius and she regularly gets over 50 mpg (one week she said she got 68 mpg) and it was a heck of a lot cheaper than a Tesla! But, lefties have never been known to think with their brain.
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