Ocean Health

One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals is to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all life depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.

The transport of microplastics in deep-sea food webs

A giant larvacean (the blue, tadpole-like animal) beats its tail to pump water and microplastic beads (red dots) through its inner filter. Image © 2016 MBARI

MBARI researchers found that filter-feeding animals called giant larvaceans can collect and consume microplastic particles in the deep sea. The particles accumulate in larvaceans’ cast-off filters and are passed into the animals’ fecal pellets, which sink rapidly through the ocean, potentially carrying microplastics to the deep seafloor.

This research suggests that larvaceans have the potential to be important, unintentional consumers of microplastics in the ocean. Because many other deep-sea animals eat larvaceans, their fecal pellets, or their cast-off houses, any microplastics collected by larvaceans would be incorporated in midwater food webs. These recent findings, published in the journal Science Advances, are just a first step, and many basic questions about microplastics in the ocean remain unanswered.

Related

Ocean Health Projects

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M1 mooring turnaround

Apr 5, 2017 - MBARI’s M1 mooring is an important data collection station that floats above the seafloor in Monterey Bay continuously taking a variety of measurements to give researchers a clear picture of oceanographic conditions.
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Ocean Imaging Expedition

In early March, MBARI's Ocean Imaging Group conducted low-altitude seafloor surveys aboard the R/V Western Flyer as part of the Coordinated Canyon Experiment.
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Buried at sea

Feb 6, 2017 - During a study to learn how sediments flow through submarine canyons, a one-ton monitoring device on the seafloor was swept down Monterey Canyon and partially buried—twice in one year.

Making an impact

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Climate Change

Climate-driven changes in upwelling, ocean mixing, oxygen minimum zones, and nutrient cycling are likely to affect the year-to-year variation in ocean ecosystem processes. These changes will potentially impact marine life and the fundamental underpinnings of fisheries from shallow to deep-sea habitats.
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Ocean Health

One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals it to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all live depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.
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Exploration and Discovery

Exploration inevitably leads to discovery. MBARI is uniquely positioned to explore the deep-sea realm and its connections with the ocean surface. Easy access to Monterey Bay’s deep submarine canyon provides a natural laboratory for scientific research and engineering innovation.