According to past studies, researchers have found that 30% of the world’s seabirds had swallowed at least a minimal amount of plastic. But a new study published earlier this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that more than 60% of seabirds likely swallowed pieces of plastics.
The Australian group of scientists have updated those numbers when they have calculated that far more seabirds were affected by the marine debris throughout the last decades.
One of the lead researchers said that the phenomenon is more widely-spread than they first estimated. The explanation is simple: as the world creates more plastic products, the amount of debris from the world’s oceans will increase. The scientists warns that in the next 10 years we will produce as much plastic as we have produced since the industrial plastic revolution from the 1950s.
The researchers combined digital simulations of the birds’ eating habits, their location and the amount of garbage disposed in those specific areas, to see just how severe the problem is.
Their work showed that the biggest issue aren’t the places with the most amounts of garbage, but where there’s the biggest number of various seabird species, such as the southern hemisphere of Oceania. North America and Europe oceanic areas are currently not as harmful for the birds.
Why do birds eat plastic objects? it’s simple, birds tend to mistake the debris for fish eggs and even fish, so they eat the plastic meal without second thoughts. Shearwaters and albatrosses are the two bird species that are most prone to swallowing debris.
Although the seabirds usually swallow small pieces of plastic, the researchers claim that they have found far bigger things in the stomach of the seabirds. The team said that they have even found everything from glow sticks, to cigarette lighters and toys.
According to computer estimations, by 2050 all seabirds in the world will most likely have plastic inside their stomach, the study warns. Even if the prediction sounds astronomical, the researchers say that it’s not very far from being unrealistic.
Photo credits: flickr