the proliferation microplastics in our oceans has captured the world’s attention. However, the plenty small plastic fragments in the ground has gone largely unnoticed. A 2018 study by German scientists found earthly microplastic pollution — caused by sewage irrigation and sewage – far exceeds marine microplastic pollution.
Previous research has shown that plants often absorb microplastics. Either they end up in the produce we use or accumulate inside the root system of plants. This led scientists from Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) to wonder if plants could be used to remove plastic particles from ecosystems in a controlled way.
For their study, the scientists turned to birches. The fast-growing trees found in plenty in the northern hemisphere temperate areas, have proven efficient in the restaurant business contaminated earth. Their shallow roots absorb industry pollutants and heavy metals from the soil and store them in tree tissues. microbial the communities inside the tissues help break down otherwise harmful hydrocarbons.
Scientists marked microplastic beads with a fluorescent dye and add them to the soil of young potted silver birch plants. The root systems were examined five months later using laser scanning technology. The study, published in the journal Direct Sciences on February 20, 2022, found that microplastics had imbued different sections of the roots in between 5 and 17 percent of the trees.
While the results are encouragingthe team still has to determine the microbeads impact on the birches. “The uptake rate of microplastics and the short- and long-term health effects of trees still need to be studied,” said lead author Kat Austen. “But this pilot a study suggests that birch has real potential for long-term soil remediation solutions – including reducing the amount of microplastics in soil and possibly water.”
As promising as the news is, trees alone won’t help solve our growing plastic problem. Pollution problem. For this, we will all have to do our part. On this Earth Day, “Let’s invest in our planet” by reducing, and perhaps even eliminatethe use of single-use plastics in our daily lives.
Resources: Unep.org, Newatlas.com, Phys.com, Ibtimes.com