Researchers from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), together with other institutions, found rocks composed of plastics in Parcel das Tartarugas, in the region of Ilha da Trindade, which is a volcanic island located 1,140 kilometers from the capital of Espírito Santo, Vitória. The environmental protection area is administered by the Navy.
The discovery was made by Fernanda Avelar Santos, doctoral student of the UFPR Geology graduate program, in 2019, when she was mapping geological hazards. She explains that all the rocks found on the island are cemented together by plastic.
“The entire structure of these rocks is formed by burned plastic.” The material came mainly from fishing nets, which ended up on the beach by ocean currents and had human action in burning to eliminate this garbage.
“That molten plastic, similar to volcanic lava, started to incorporate the beach fragments and form these new occurrences in the geology.”
Plastic rock found on Trindade Island, formed by the melting and subsequent solidification of plastic released into the environment – Fernanda Avelar Santos/ Publicity
The finding was published by the researchers in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, which is a reference in marine pollution. Four types of plastic debris forms, distinct in composition and appearance, were identified. Plastic deposits on the coastal shelf covered volcanic rocks; sediments from the current beach composed of gravel and sand; and rocks on the beach with an irregular surface due to erosion caused by waves, described the researcher.
Trindade Island is an important marine reserve in the South Atlantic and a Brazilian Natural Monument. Rocks consisting of plastic were identified close to the largest nesting region of the green sea turtle (chelonia mydas) and reef worms (marine molluscs).
Belonging to the so-called Blue Amazon, an area with natural riches and abundant minerals that only Brazil can economically exploit, the island is a natural habitat for seabirds and has a fragile and unique ecosystem that includes endemic species of fish and different sets of reefs.
The study is the first report in Brazil of this rock-like plastic debris and also the first in the world to find an outcrop on the beach surface with various types of this debris that were previously found elsewhere in the world.
Trindade Island, located in Espírito Santo – Brazilian Navy/ Flickr
The Brazilian researchers studied the dynamics of these materials, with their entry into geological cycles, in the coastal and marine environment. Researcher Fernanda stated that this is also the first study in Brazil and one of the first in the world carried out by a group of geologists.
The theme is the subject of investigation by researchers from other areas, such as biologists, chemists, ecologists, oceanographers, who explain how plastic interacts in the biological cycle. Research by UFPR and partners shows how plastic is starting to interact with the Earth cycle or geological cycle.
“It means that the human being is interfering in the composition of the Earth, is interfering in the natural cycles, in the geological cycles, being an agent in the disposition and formation of this material”.
Formation is a result of pollution in the seas – Fernanda Avelar Santos/ Publicity
“Is this legacy that we, in the present, want to leave for the future, for the record of the Earth, that pollution has reached an alarming level?”, asked Fernanda. The scientists’ work raises other questions to consider. One concerns the correct way to dispose of this garbage.
The study is continuing. Fernanda and her team, made up of two chemists, an oceanographer and six geologists from UFPR, University of São Paulo (USP) and Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), went into the field at the end of last year and returned with new data. and ideas, which will continue to be published. “Still this year, we want to bring more news, for sure”, assured Fernanda.
The objective of continuing the work is to understand the dynamics, that is, how the plastic material is dispersed, how it is being eroded by the waves, how it reaches other beaches.
“We are going to continue the work with microplastics as well, trying to fit this material into geological models and see how it is being preserved in the region’s sedimentary record. We will try to bring new things, new perspectives to these occurrences”.
According to the work carried out by the scientists, pollution, found especially in the marine environment and caused, in large part, by plastic materials, can even alter the fauna and flora scenarios of the terrestrial environment.
Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News