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Plastic Choking the Bacteria that Helps us Breathe

Approximately one-tenth of the breathable oxygen we get is from a marine microbe. The bacteria responsible for oxygen generation in the depths of the ocean is known as Prochlorococcus. It is a photosynthesis capable bacteria and is one of the most abundant marine species. However, according to a study Dr. Sasha Tetu and Dr. Lisa Moore, plastic pollution is disrupting the survival of this bacteria. The study states plastic pollution costs approximately US$13 billion of economic damage every year. Moreover, researchers believe that situation shall become worse 2050 if we do not take measures to control plastic pollution.

Researchers observed a small group of Prochlorococcus exposed to chemicals that form due to plastic pollution. Researchers found it affected the growth of these microbes. When it comes to the production of carbohydrates in oxygen, these microbes are the heavy lifters of marine life.

Why Prochlorococcus is So Important for Marine Life?

The tiny microbes play a crucial role in marine food cycle. They are the very foundation of oxygen production in ocean which is responsible for the existence of marine life. They also contribute to the carbon cycle under the ocean surface. Most importantly, these microorganisms play the most crucial role in global oxygen production. To be precise enough these tiny organisms produce at least 10% of the total breathable oxygen on earth.

During an experiment, researchers observed some strains of these bacteria. They brought them in contact with the two most common plastic product – grey plastic bags used in grocery and PVC matting. It was found that the chemicals from these products have hampered the growth and other functionalities of these bacteria. Furthermore, the chemicals have started making bacteria genetically impaired.

Scientists believe that to understand the overall impact of plastic pollution over marine life, one must read its impact on various microorganisms.

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