- Students’ Column
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We all know about the damaging impact that Man has on the natural environment, but even some of the most pessimistic didn’t realise the extent of it. It has been found that some of the world’s deepest sea trenches have been polluted with highly toxic substances over the years. The presence of these man made chemicals in this remote area of the planet has shown the serious extent of the human impact on the environment.
The Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean, where the pollution has been discovered, is 10 kilometres deep and is the most inaccessible place on planet Earth. A robotic submarine discovered small crustaceans living in the trench, which contains 50 times more toxic chemicals than the most polluted rivers in China. However, the Far East isn’t the only place where the rivers have been significantly affected. Take a look at this story on salmon in Seattle on http://www.thealternativedaily.com/puget-sound-salmon-contain-drugs/. The results of the Mariana study were considered particularly startling as the toxins were discovered miles away from any industrial sources.
To get a scale of how deep the trench is, imagine Mount Everest flipped upside down and then add a further two kilometres onto the top. No sunlight can penetrate any of the trenches so all the surviving organisms have to rely entirely on dead organic material from above. It took a custom built submarine to reach all the way down to this area, which collected various samples to test and draw conclusions from.
Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University in the UK led the research, and commented on the “devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet.” Two of the types of chemicals that were discovered were banned in the 1970s, but stay in the environment as they do not break down. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been found in the deepest parts of the ocean, and are also water-repellent. Once substances flow into the trench, they cannot escape again which was the basis of this research being conducted in the first place.
It’s thought that the trench’s closeness to a large whirlpool known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is the reason that it has accumulated so many toxins. This whirlpool has accumulated huge quantities of plastics over the years, and POPs have been found to bind to this material.
Ultimately, this latest piece of research is ground-breaking as it has shown that no part of the Earth’s surface is completely protected from the activities of Man. This is something that will impact all of us, as well as future generations. Protecting the environment is one of the biggest challenges that remains for human beings to tackle. With a growing population and more nations joining in to become fully industrialised, this is a challenge that will only become greater in the coming years. This is something that should bind us all together as a species, regardless of political beliefs or any other affiliation.