The deep sea is an extreme and sensitive habitat. All chemical and biochemical processes here take place very slowly. This also slows down life: Animals take longer to reach sexual maturity than in shallow waters. A single train of steel hawsers over rocks with cold water corals can destroy growth for centuries and even decades.
Although the disposal of waste at sea was banned as early as 1972, the consequences can still be felt and seen today, for example in trial fishing trips or on video images from the depths. Marine researchers, for example, have discovered a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench at a depth of about 11,000 metres. Plastic waste is now even found in the Arctic deep sea.
A new study shows that plastic is one of the biggest problems for the deep sea. Even remote areas like the Arctic and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge are affected. In total, the experts examined 32 different regions in the Northeast Atlantic, the Arctic Ocean and the Mediterranean. The researchers came across plastic waste during the evaluation of images from a deep-sea observatory in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Spitsbergen. According to the information, this plastic waste has already penetrated far north into the Arctic and is found there in water depths about which even the experts have little knowledge to date.
However, the researchers are less concerned about the floating plastic bags and other large parts that can be swallowed by animals. Above all, they fear the possible consequences of the microparticles to which plastic decays over time. For it is with these millimetre-sized parts that the ecological problems probably only really begin. These particles accumulate in the food chain of the deep sea. And stay at the bottom of the deep sea forever.