Plastic debris crossing the Pacific can transport more species with the
help of barnacles
FEBRUARY 3, 2016
PHOTOGRAPHER: MARINA GARLAND
The smooth surfaces of much of the plastic waste rapidly increasing in
the ocean appear to provide poor habitat for animals — that is, until
barnacles step in.
University of Florida researchers discovered that diverse communities of
rafting animals can inhabit even the smoothest pieces of plastic debris
if barnacles step in first to create complex habitat, similar to trees
in a rainforest or corals in a reef. That means plastics could better
transport foreign species across oceans than previously believed, said
Mike Gil, who, as a doctoral candidate at UF, led the study published
Jan. 27 in Scientific Reports.
Now the bad news: While conservationists generally aim to preserve
biological diversity, Gil said, the diversity found on plastic debris
could be harmful.