The microplastic pollution crisis is threatening biodiversity
New research from Queen's University Belfast and Liverpool John Moores University shows how the microplastic contamination crisis threatens biodiversity, especially hermit crabs' ability to choose a shell they need to survive.
At present, up to 10 per cent of global plastic production ends up in the sea but there is little knowledge of how this impacts marine life. The study focused on plastics' effect on hermit crabs, which play a significant role in maintaining the marine environment.
Instead of producing their own shells, hermit crabs take shells from snails to cover their fragile abdomen.
As a hermit crab develops over the years, a series of larger and larger shells may need to be found to replace the ones that have become too small. These shells are essential for the security and enabling the growth, reproduction and survival of hermit crabs.
The researchers found that when hermit crabs were exposed to microplastics, they were less likely to strike later on or join shells of high quality.
The research team divided hermit crabs into experimental tanks to explore the effect of microplastic exposure, half containing microplastics while the other half did not have plastic. The hermit crabs were transferred into low-quality shells after five days, with the option of alternate high-quality shells providing greater protection.
“Our research shows for the first time how microplastics are disrupting and causing behavioral changes among the hermit crab population. These crabs are an important part of the ecosystem, responsible for ‘cleaning up’ the sea through eating up decomposed sea-life and bacteria," Dr Arnott said.
Maritime Business World