Expédition MED 2017 scientific voyage to research the new ecosystems of marine microorganisms and bacteria which colonise and live on micro-fragments of degraded plastic, has set sail from the port of Fiumicino, Italy.
For two months the crew of the Ainez will sail the waters of the central and southern Mediterranean in order to study the so-called plastisphere,
These microorganisms and bacteria feed on plastic particles and can transform themselves into microbial barriers which are entirely distinct from surrounding biological communities.
According to marine biologists Linda Amaral-Zettler and Erik Zettler, whose research led to the discovery of the plastisphere, thirty minutes after reaching the sea plastic waste is colonised by these microorganisms, contaminating any fish farms it floats into.
The interdisciplinary team of Expédition MED 2017, composed of scientists, oceanographers and volunteers, will study this alarming habitat which can play a key role in the aggregation and transport of toxic chemical substances and microorganisms which invade ecosystems and are harmful to humans.
Expédition MED is expected to cover around 2000 nautical miles between the south of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the southern Mediterranean (particularly around the island of Lampedusa), the Ionian Sea and finally the Adriatic Sea, one of the areas with the highest density of plastic waste.
Founded in France by Bruno Dumontet, the Expédition MED NGO conducts scientific research into plastic in the Mediterranean Sea through maritime expeditions and by creating an international network of collaborators.
In addition to supporting scientific research by creating a Citizen's Laboratory of participatory science, Expédition MED also aims to develop an international network composed of research centres and environmental associations involved specifically in studying plastic waste.
It has also joined the fight to reduce plastic waste, raising awareness and mobilising the general public and decision makers as to the damage caused by plastic waste in the sea, as well as supporting alternative solutions to plastics from fossil sources.
Italian biotech firm, Novamont, has supported the initiative for a number of years as part of the citizen science project, which also involves collaborating with Goletta Verde of Legambiente and Plastic Buster from the University of Siena.
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