The new model, which tracks the vertical movement of microplastic particles, will make the ocean cleaner. She knows how to predict the behavior of garbage.
Researchers at the University of Newcastle have identified for the first time the processes that underlie the movement of microplastics in the ocean. They found that the properties of the particles that affect its vertical movement are the flow and population of algae that determine the maximum depth reached. The research results also show that the smallest particles are extremely sensitive to attachment and growth. This suggests that they are always submerged to a depth surrounding the base of the euphotic zone – the layer located closer to the surface.
At the same time, microplastics (fragments less than 5 mm in diameter) make up 90% of the plastic debris found on the surface of the ocean, but there is much more plastic in the ocean than on its surface. Researchers cannot say with certainty what exactly is happening to the particles in the ocean – 99% of them are considered missing.
The new model is able to determine the distribution of contaminated plastic in the ocean and therefore its environmental impact, especially in areas of high concentration.
“Mathematical modeling has proven extremely useful in identifying plastic pollution hotspots on the ocean surface. I hope this study can be a constructive step in understanding the impact of plastic pollution under the surface and help us ultimately make the ocean clear, ”the scientists note.
Future research by the team will focus on fluid motion in a mixed ocean layer, which will further assess the vertical distribution of microplastics in the ocean.