Microplastics found in Europe’s largest ice cap
In a recent article by Durability, scientists from the University of Reykjavik (UK), the University of Gothenburg and the Icelandic Meteorological Office describe their discovery of microplastics in an isolated and pristine area of the Vatnajokull Glacier in Iceland, the largest ice cap in Europe. Microplastics can affect the melting and rheological behavior of glaciers, thus influencing the future contribution of meltwater to the oceans and to sea level rise.
This is the first time that the discovery of microplastics in the Vatnajökull glacier has been described. The group visualized and identified microplastic particles of different sizes and materials by light microscopy and μ-Raman spectroscopy.
The discussion of microplastics has mostly focused on the contamination of the sea, but so far little research has been done on plastic in Earth’s ice caps. To date, microplastic particles have been found in the Italian Alps, the Ecuadorian Andes, and icebergs in Svalbard. According to Dr Hlynur Stefansson, associate professor in the UK Department of Engineering and first author of the article, understanding the distribution of microplastic and its short and long term effects on ice dynamics is of vital importance. .
The results confirm that the microplastic particles are distributed in the atmosphere. “We don’t understand well enough the pathways of microplastic particles in our environment. Is plastic transported by snow and rain? We need to know more about the causes. The samples we have taken come from a very isolated and pristine area of the Vatnajokull glacier with no easy access, so direct pollution from human activity is unlikely, ”says Dr Stefansson. “We also need to know a lot more about the short- and long-term effects of microplastics on ice dynamics and whether they contribute to the melting of glaciers. If so, this will play a critical role in the future. contribution of meltwater to oceans and sea level rise. Plastic particles degrade very slowly in the cold glacial environment and can accumulate and persist in glaciers for a very long time. will eventually be freed from the ice, contributing to the pollution of rivers and the marine environment. It is therefore very important to map and understand the presence and dispersion of microplastics in glaciers on a global scale. “
Microplastics in glaciers: first results from the Vatnajökull ice cap
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