Plasticosis: Understanding the disease affecting seabirds due to plastic pollution
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Seabirds are majestic creatures that roam the oceans, but their lives are under threat due to plastic pollution. The accumulation of plastic in the oceans has given rise to a new disease known as “Plasticosis” that is plaguing these birds. Read more to know everything about Plasticosis, including its causes, symptoms, and effects on seabird populations.
Plastic pollution in the oceans has reached alarming levels, with millions of tons of plastic waste entering the ocean every year. The situation is so severe that every minute, a garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into our oceans. And only 1% of this floats, rest sinks to the sea floor.
Plasticosis is a disease caused by the ingestion of plastic debris by seabirds, which has emerged as a significant threat to their health and survival. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about Plasticosis in seabirds, including its causes, symptoms, and effects on their populations.
What is Plasticosis?
Plasticosis is a disease that affects seabirds that have ingested plastic debris. The ingestion of plastic can cause a range of health problems in seabirds, leading to decreased immunity, reproductive failure, and death. The disease is caused by the accumulation of plastic debris in the bird’s digestive system, which can lead to blockages, infections, and malnutrition.
Causes of Plasticosis
The primary cause of Plasticosis is the ingestion of plastic debris by seabirds. Plastic waste in the ocean can take many forms, including plastic bags, bottles, straws, and other items. Seabirds often mistake these items for food and ingest them, leading to the accumulation of plastic in their digestive system.
Symptoms of Plasticosis
The symptoms of Plasticosis can vary depending on the severity of the disease. Some common symptoms include weight loss, regurgitation, and reduced feeding. Seabirds may also show signs of lethargy and reduced mobility, indicating that they are suffering from malnutrition. In severe cases, the ingestion of plastic can cause blockages in the digestive system, leading to death.
Effects on Seabird Populations
Plasticosis has emerged as a significant threat to seabird populations worldwide. Seabirds are essential indicators of ocean health, and the presence of Plasticosis is a clear sign that the oceans are under significant stress. The disease can have a range of effects on seabird populations, including decreased reproductive success, decreased immunity, and increased mortality rates.
The physical structure of the proventriculus is affected by scarring caused by plasticosis. The tissue gets progressively more swollen as plastic exposure increases until it begins to break down.
‘The greatest illustration of the effects of plasticosis,’ Alex explains, ‘are the tubular glands, which secrete digestive chemicals. When plastic is ingested, these glands get progressively more stunted and eventually lose all tissue structure.’
The birds become more vulnerable to sickness, parasites, and limited nutrient absorption when these glands are lost. Scarring can also make it difficult to digest food because the stomach becomes hard and stiff. Since their stomachs aren’t able to hold as much food in immature birds and chicks, it can be particularly dangerous. According to some research, at least 90% of juvenile birds acquire plastic from their parents. The chicks may starve to death as their stomachs get full with plastic that they can’t digest in the extreme.
One of the reasons that determines how plastic affects the development of young shearwaters is most likely plasticosis. The quantity of plastic in the body was connected to the length of the wing, while the total weight of the bird was tied to the number of plastic pieces, according to the research.
The research discovered that other inorganic items, such as pumice stones, are eaten by the birds naturally, but this does not cause scarring. Instead, the stones might aid in the breakdown of plastic into smaller pieces, which causes more harm.
‘We discovered microplastics in organs like the spleen and kidney, where they were linked with inflammation, fibrosis, and a complete collapse of structure,’ Alex says. ‘Our research team had previously investigated how they affect tissues.’
Plasticosis is only seen in flesh-footed shearwaters at this time. Nonetheless, given the quantity of plastic trash in the environment, it’s reasonable to assume that other species are suffering from this illness as well.
How to prevent Plasticosis
Preventing Plasticosis requires a collective effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans. There are several ways to reduce plastic pollution, including reducing single-use plastic items, recycling, and proper waste disposal. Individuals can also take steps to reduce their plastic footprint, such as using reusable bags and water bottles.
Plasticosis is a disease that is affecting seabirds worldwide, caused by the ingestion of plastic debris. The disease can have a range of effects on seabird populations, including decreased reproductive success, decreased immunity, and increased mortality rates. Preventing Plasticosis requires a collective effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans. By taking steps to reduce our plastic footprint, we can help protect these majestic creatures and the oceans they call home.
Read More: How can we reduce our microplastic intake?
How common is Plasticosis in seabirds?
Plasticosis is becoming increasingly common in seabirds worldwide, with many populations suffering from the disease.
What can I do to reduce my plastic footprint?
Individuals can take several steps to reduce their plastic footprint, such as using reusable bags and water bottles and properly disposing of plastic waste.
How does plastic pollution affect the oceans?
Plastic pollution can have a range of effects on the oceans, including harming marine life, contaminating seafood, and disrupting ocean.
What can governments do to address plastic pollution?
Governments can take steps to reduce plastic pollution, such as implementing bans on single-use plastics and promoting recycling and waste reduction programs.
How can I help raise awareness about Plasticosis?
You can help raise awareness about Plasticosis by sharing information with others, participating in beach cleanups, and supporting organizations that work to protect seabirds and the oceans.