YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
Just in time for summer, there’s a hot new form of plastic pollution to discover next time you’re on the coast. ‘Plasticrust’ (above) is a strange new blend of rock and plastic, first discovered forming on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Researchers at the Marine and Environmental Research Centre noticed the strange crusts on the volcanic island’s shoreline rocks in 2016. The light blue films were plastered onto the rock like old chewing gum grafted onto pavement. Early this year, they returned to the spot to find more areas covered in the mysterious substance, now in multiple colors. The team decided to take measurements and collect more samples to see what they were dealing with.
By randomly sampling rocky areas of the shoreline, they found that over three years, the crusts had gone from a single sighting to a blight covering nearly 10% of the rocks’ surfaces. Chemical analysis revealed that it was polyethylene, an extremely common plastic often used in single-use packaging and food containers. In a paper published this month, Gestoso and his team formally dubbed the phenomenon as 'plasticrust', a never-before-seen form of plastic pollution.
CORAL VS PLASTIC
Meanwhile, new evidence has emerged that corals actually prefer eating microplastics. A previous study in the lab first identified the problem, and new research backs this up. Scientists collected several specimens off the east coast of the United States, cut them open and discovered that every single polyp contained at least 100 bits of microplastic—the first recorded instance of coral consuming plastic in the wild. Next, they dumped microbeads into tanks of lab-raised coral along with their normal food, shrimp eggs. When they later cut the corals open, they found that there was twice as much plastic in their polyps as there were shrimp eggs.
Four North Atlantic right whales were found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in the last three weeks, representing about one percent of the remaining population that is closely watched. One, named ‘Punctuation’ because of the dots and dashes on her back, was a breeding female who had mothered eight calves and then gone on to have several grandchildren, making her death a significant loss for a dwindling population. She had been sighted as long ago as 38 years. Another, known as ‘Comet’, was roughly 33 years old and well known to whale-watching experts, who also said that he had become a grandfather.
The elusive giant squid has been caught on video for just the third time, this time in U.S. waters not far from New Orleans. It comes seven years after the same scientists recorded the first video of a giant squid swimming in its natural habitat, off Japan’s Ogasawara archipelago. For that expedition, they developed a new camera system called Medusa. It employs red light, which most sea creatures can’t see, and, at the end of a mile-long plastic line, an optical lure in the form of a ring of LED lights that resembles a bioluminescent jellyfish.
A British climate scientist’s visualization of global heating has gone viral, showing in shocking detail just how quickly and severely our home planet is heating up. The original chart organizes all the countries of the world by region, time and temperature with individual pixels – and the trend is unmistakeable. To spread awareness, Prof Ed Hawkins next created a global Climate Stripes graphic – which has since been turned into ties, dresses, sweaters and leggings. Someone in Minnesota in the US has even painted their Tesla car in the stripes.
SEE THE ORIGINAL GRAPHIC