Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One word - plastics

A friend of mine, Terri, sent me a link to this website. It's one of those sites where you don't know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand, it looks like some bizarre art school project. And on the other hand it's a tragic indictment of just how polluted our oceans are becoming. These photos are the remains of Laysan albatrosses (Phoebastria immutabilis), which nest on Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. Ocean currents in the Pacific cause floating plastic garbage to accumulate in two huge patches, which happen to be right within the feeding grounds of the albatross - you can read a paper on this that was published by Young et al in PLoS ONE by clicking here). The adult albatrosses are attracted to the brightly colored plastic, swallow it (hey, they're birds - noone claiming they can make good choices), then fly back to Midway to feed it to their chicks. The website, which was produced by photographer Chris Jordan, shows what happens to the chicks - they fill up with inedible plastic doohickeys and eventually die. On the plus side, the Laysan albatross is the second most common seabird in the Hawaiian Islands, with a population of 2.5 million birds and a range that is expanding to include new nesting islands. Having said that, they're going to need to breed at a furious rate to offset this mortality.

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