According to researchers, underwater sea grass in coastal parts seems to trap plastic particles in bundles of fibers, known as Neptune balls.
Without any human assistance, these plants, growing on sea beds, may be able to trap around 900 m plastic stuff from the Mediterranean on a yearly basis, says the study published in the Scientific Reports journal.
Anna Sanchez-Vidal who’s a marine biologist at the Barcelona University explains that plastic waste from seafloors can be collected by sea grass remains and get out of the marine environment through the beaches.
Sea Grass Balls Could Be the Key to Cleaner Waters?
According to Vidal, this cleanup done by the sea grass is an ongoing removal of plastic waste from the sea.
The study also explains the other benefits of sea grass for the ecosystems and humans who live nearby waters.
They’re essential for bettering the quality of water, absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen, and are also a nursery and refuge for numerous fish species.
And, they’re the basis of coastal food webs.
Since they anchor in shallow waters, they help reduce the risk of beach erosion and mitigate the influence of destructive surges of storms.
There are 70 known species of marine sea grass and they’re grouped in several families. They’ve re-colonized the ocean some 80 m to 100 m years ago.
They have long and grass-like leaves which form big meadows underwater.
Still, it remains unknown if the collection of plastic debris is damaging the grass.
What Is the Capacity of Sea Grass in Terms of Collecting Plastic Debris?
To get a better understanding of the plastic collection capacity of sea grass, together with her team, Vidal studied one species that’s only known to grow in the Mediterranean Sea, i.e. Posidonia oceanica.
They counted the plastic particles of the washed-up sea grass balls in 2018 and 2019, from a total of 4 beaches in Mallorca, Spain.
They concluded that only 17 percent of the tighter sea grass fiber had plastic; however, at a very high density- 1500 pieces per a kilo.
Moreover, using estimates of the production of this fiber in the Mediterranean, they found out how much plastic may be filtered in the whole basin.