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The effects of microplastics on Arran’s otter population


ICOE intern and research analyst Pablo Garcia collects data from the Isle of Arran

Isle of Arran

Microplastics have become a popular research topic since the discovery of their widespread presence on beaches and in the oceans. They are formed by the exposure of bigger pieces of plastic to sunlight and radiation which causes them to break into smaller pieces from 5 millimetres down to a few micrometres in diameter. Where do microplastics start their cycle and where do they end it?

There are many different types of microplastics, and we are their source. Common types include microbeads added to cosmetic products and plastic particles from bigger plastic pieces such as water bottles and plastic bags.

Microplastics are proving to be a significant ecological problem due to the effects on marine life. They are ingested by plankton and other species of filter feeders at the bottom of the food chain, then through trophic transfer, they move to bigger species such as fish and marine mammals including whales, dolphins and otters. The smaller microplastics interfere with reproduction and growth, while the larger ingested pieces directly cause mortality.

Pablo Garcia, a research analyst (intern) at ICOE Research, is studying Environmental Science and Sustainability at the University of Glasgow. For his thesis, he is examining the presence of microplastics in the food chain of otters and their prey in the Firth of Clyde around Arran.

His research will help to measure the potential effects of microplastics on the wellbeing of otters and will be a valuable contribution to wildlife conservation attempts. To read more about his experience and work on Arran, and his request for assistance from residents and visitors to Arran, please follow the link below.

Sea Otter

ICOE Research, 2019

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