According to a team of researchers from Barcelona, Spain, a type of Mediterranean seagrass is able to capture plastic, thus becoming a valuable and natural ally to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in large bodies of water.
“We show that plastic debris in the seafloor can be trapped in seagrass remains, eventually leaving the marine environment through beaching,” says Anna Sanchez-Vidal, a marine biologist at the University of Barcelona and the study’s lead author. The Posidionia oceania seagrass forms tangled masses – called Neptune balls – that wash ashore following storms.
Following the data collected on four beaches of the Spanish island of Mallorca in 2018 and 2019, researchers were able to evaluate that this seagrass can collect up to 867 million bits of plastic every year in the Mediterranean sea. Each Neptune balls can contain up to 1,500 pieces: that’s almost three times more plastic trapped than in loose seagrass. These underwater meadows not only absorb carbon dioxide and provide a habitat for fishes, but they can also contribute to getting rid of plastic in coastal areas.