(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers studying the effects of plastic on small mammals in England and Wales have found traces of it in the feces of more than half of the species studied.
In an article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers from the University of Sussex, the Mammal Society and the University of Exeter claim that the density of the released plastic was comparable to that in human studies.
Fiona Matthews, professor of environmental biology at the University of Sussex, said “much is known about the impact of plastic on aquatic ecosystems, but very little is known about the same in terrestrial systems.”
“By analyzing the droppings of some of the most common small mammals, we were able to gain insight into the potential impact of plastic on our wildlife, as well as the most common types of plastic seeping into our environment.” scientists say.
Plastic polymers were reported to have been found in four of the seven species for which faecal samples were taken. The European hedgehog, wood mouse, vole and brown rat have all been found to respond positively to plastic.
Expecting to see higher concentrations of plastic in samples from urban areas and lower amounts of plastic in herbivorous species, the researchers found that plastic consumption occurs in different places and with different eating habits – in herbivores, insectivores and omnivores.
“It is very disturbing that traces of plastic were so widespread in different places and in species with different eating habits.
This suggests that plastic can seep into all areas of our environment in a variety of ways.” experts emphasize.
Using equipment at the Greenpeace labs at the University of Exeter, the team analyzed 261 fecal samples, of which 16.5% contained plastic.
The most common plastics were polyester, polyethylene (commonly used in disposable packaging) and polynorbornene (used mainly in the rubber industry). Polyester accounted for 27% of the identified fragments and was found in all plastic-positive species except wood mice.
More than a quarter of the plastics found in the study were also “biodegradable” or bioplastics. The authors caution that although these types of plastics degrade faster than polymers, they can still be ingested by small mammals, and further research is needed to examine their true biological effects.
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