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Oregon Coast Scientists: Bad News About Invasive Species and Increased Plastics

Published 10/10/2017 at 6:57 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Scientists: Bad News About Invasive Species and Increased Plastics

(Newport, Oregon) - A new study by Hatfield Marine Science Center / Oregon State University scientists indicates a troubling future for the Oregon coast and invasive species, along with unsettling revelations on how all this links to plastics in the ocean as well as climate change.

Marine scientists John Chapman and Jessica Miller were co-authors on the study, finding that invasive species were much more resilient than previously thought, having survived longer on their trips to Oregon from Japan than scientists believed possible. Moreover, they seem to be carried in great numbers by plastics and not just wood, ship and building debris, which was thought to be the primary mode of transportation across the ocean. Essentially, more species are arriving by plastics.

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To add another layer of concern: the increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes and other weather disasters dumps even more plastics into the ocean. This, researchers believe, will give even more invasive species a free ride.

Scientists found that coastal species from Japan were surviving four or more years than expected, as they came over via tsunami debris.

“One thing this event has taught us is that some of these organisms can be extraordinarily resilient,” Chapman said. “When we first saw species from Japan arriving in Oregon, we were shocked. We never thought they could live that long, under such harsh conditions. It would not surprise me if there were species from Japan that are out there living along the Oregon coast. In fact, it would surprise me if there weren’t.”

Discoveries of more creatures – often capable of reproducing – were discovered in the last year.

After a decline in wood debris in 2014, scientists discovered tiny creatures were coming over on plastics, fiberglass and styrofoam.

This sent off more alarms, as the researchers from OSU and the Hatfield pieced together alarming statistics: every year the ocean gets hit with more than 10 million tons of plastic waste from almost 200 countries.

James Carlton, an internationally known invasive species expert with the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport, was lead author on the study that involved those from Oregon.

“Given that hurricanes and typhoons that could sweep large amounts of debris into the oceans are predicted to increase due to global climate change, there is huge potential for the amount of marine debris in the oceans to increase significantly,” Carlton said.

Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours Below: more invasive species found in recent years:

Photos above: Seaside Aquarium

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