SOURCE: Science Daily

DATE: May 14, 2019

SNIP: Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean. Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology.

“We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr Sasha Tetu.

“Now we’d like to explore if plastic pollution is having the same impact on these microbes in the ocean.”

In the first study of its kind, the researchers looked at the effects these chemicals have on the smallest life in our oceans, photosynthetic marine bacteria.

These microbes are heavy lifters when it comes to carbohydrate and oxygen production in the ocean via photosynthesis.

In the lab, the team exposed two strains of Prochlorococcus found at different depths in the ocean to chemicals leached from two common plastic products — grey plastic grocery bags (made from high-density polyethylene) and PVC matting.

They found that exposure to these chemicals impaired the growth and function of these microbes — including the amount of oxygen they produce — as well as altering the expression of a large number of their genes.