Scientists Find Both Potential Threats and Promising Resources in the Thriving Colonies of Bacteria and Fungi on Ocean Plastic Trash
Published:26 Jan.2024    Source:Nanyang Technological University
A team of scientists from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has found both potential threats and promising resources in the thriving colonies of bacteria and fungi on plastic trash washed up on Singapore shores. When plastics enter the ocean, microorganisms attach to and colonise them, forming an ecological community known as the 'Plastisphere'. Despite the millions of tonnes of plastic trash in the world's oceans, little is known about how the plastisphere assembles and interacts with its plastic hosts in tropical marine environments.
To understand the plastic-microbes interaction, NTU researchers extracted DNA information of plastispheres gathered from 14 coastal locations in Singapore. They found potential plastic-eating bacteria and harmful microbes thriving on the samples. The study, published in Environment International in September, is among the few plastisphere studies in the Southeast Asian tropical marine and coastal environment, including coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, beaches, and open waters.

Lead author of the study, NTU doctoral student Jonas Koh, at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE), said, "The plastisphere can influence the fate of plastic debris, breaking it down into microplastics, causing them to sink or float, for example. Yet very little is known about what kinds of microbes are in the plastisphere in tropical coastal marine environments. How do they interact with each other? How does the plastic debris influence their development? We want to know the answers to these questions, which can help policymakers make informed decisions to reduce potential threats to our Southeast Asia ocean ecosystem."