A new study shows that microplastics are affecting the ability of mussels to attach to their surroundings – potentially having a devastating impact on ocean ecosystems, as well as a global industry worth $ 3 to 4 billion per year.
The new research, published in the journal environment pollution, was conducted by Dr. Dannielle Green of Anglia Ruskin University and was held at the Portaferry Marine Laboratory in Northern Ireland.
The researchers found that blue mussels exposed to doses of non-biodegradable microplastics over a period of 52 days produced significantly fewer byssal wires, which are fine fibers that help mussels to attach themselves to rocks and ropes.
In addition to allowing mussels to survive strong waves and tides and remain attached to their surroundings, these rock wires also allow them to form extensive reefs that provide important habitats for other marine animals and plants.
The study also found that the overall tenacity or fixation force of mussels exposed to microplastics, calculated by measuring the maximum vertical force required for the mussel to dislodge its position, dropped by 50% compared to a control sample of mussels that were not exposed for microplastics.
And to understand the potential effects of microplastics on mussel health, the researchers measured the proteins within the mussel's circulatory fluid or hemolymph, which performs a blood-like function. This showed that microplastics induced a strong immune response and also affected the metabolism of mussels.
Dr. Green, a senior biology professor at Anglia Ruskin University, said, "Tenacity is vital for mussels to form and maintain reefs without being displaced by hydrodynamic forces." Our study showed that the presence of non-biodegradable microplastics reduced number of byssal wires produced by the mussels, which probably represents the 50% reduction in the clamping force.
"The bissal threads help mussels to form aggregates, increasing the success of fertilization and making mussels more resistant to predation. Reducing these segments in nature could lead to cascading impacts on biodiversity as well as reducing aquaculture productivity, since it is more likely that the mussels will be washed by strong waves or tides.
"Our research also shows that even biodegradable microplastics can affect the health of mussels. Both biodegradable and non-biodegradable plastic are used in the manufacture of disposable containers, which become trash can become microplastics. and global reduction of these materials can play an important role in helping to protect our marine environment. "
Materials provided by Anglia Ruskin University. Note: Content can be edited by style and size.