Interaction between plastics, marine sponges and their associated microbiota
Plastic waste is one of the greatest threats our oceans are facing with a projected tenfold increase in the marine environment by 2025.
Micro-plastics are an “invisible” fraction of this pollution, yet they are becoming more and more abundant, entering the food chain with unknown consequences on sea life and human health.
Another “invisible” fraction of this pollution is that plastics, in contact with water, can release chemical compounds including organics that might interfere the natural biogeochemical cycles mediated by organisms and their microbiota.
Sponges filter large volumes of seawater from where they remove and transform microparticles and dissolved chemical compounds in a variety of ways. By transforming Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), sponges and their associated microbes convert it into ‘edible’ energy for other organisms.
Understanding and quantifying this “fertilizer” function of sponges is one of the relevant research topic on what Spo-Plastic plans to contribute by addressing two main goals.
First, to determine the capacity of sponges to process the DOC leached from microplastics and to identify potential changes in the microbial components.
Second, to design an in situ method to quantify the capacity of the sponges to remove microplastics from the water column. Preserving sponge communities and the services they provide offers a natural solution in contrast to the outstanding cost of the biotechnological strategies to remove or mitigate plastic pollution.
Investigating the capacity of marine sponges to process organic compounds leaked from plastics or substitutes (compostable gears) and their potential effect on interfering sponge-microbe symbiosis.
Montgri Coast and Medes Island, Spain (Mediterranean Sea)
Marta Ribes, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (ICM-CSIC)
Institutional, scientific & technical partners
Co-PI: Rafel Coma (Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes CEAB-CSIC)
Lucia Pita (GEOMAR)
Cristina Romera-Castillo (ICM-CSIC)