The big question now is: What does that do to the ice sheet?

After researchers have already discovered microplastic particles in oceans, mountains, basins, sea ice and our faeces, scientists have now also discovered tiny bits of plastic in Europe’s largest ice sheet. Researchers write this in the journal Sustainability.

Scientists have researched the Vatnajökull River – a glacier in Iceland. And they found many microplastics there. This is surprising, says researcher Helenor Stefanson in an interview Scientias from.

Somehow the researchers speculated that they would encounter microplastic particles. “Although we also took into account that we would not find them, because the glacier is so far away.” What surprised the researchers, however, was that they found a lot of microplastics. “I was surprised by the amount and variety of microplastics discovered in the ice samples we collected from this glacier.”

Through the atmosphere
The microplastics are thought to have been transported to the ice sheet via air. “The site where we sampled the ice sheet is very far away, so direct contamination is very unlikely,” says Stefanson. The microplastics are more likely to reach the glacier as they travel through the atmosphere. However, little research has been done on the aerial transport of these particles. “

The effect of microplastics
It’s also unclear what effect microplastics would have on glaciers such as Vatnajökul. “Microplastics can affect the structure of glaciers and the extent to which glaciers absorb light and thus also affect weak ice sheet melting (areas with ice, liberated). However, we do not yet know if microplastics are accelerating, slowing down, or not.” Greatly affect the melting of glaciers. ” If it were up to Stefanson, that would soon change. “In my opinion, it is very important to know whether microplastics affect the melting of glaciers. Recent research has shown that melting glaciers has a significant effect on sea levels rise. An important consequence of global climate change.”

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But there are many other questions that researchers would like to answer. For example: How do microplastics end up in an ice sheet? “We don’t understand very well how microplastics are prevalent in our environment,” says Stefanson. In addition, it is also important to clarify how many microplastics there are in the glaciers.

Research into microplastics in ice is still in its infancy. In recent years, the focus has been mainly on microplastics in water. This makes sense, Stefanson says. “You can see plastic pollution well on beaches and elsewhere in marine environments, which is why it attracts attention. Marine environments are also vibrant and important sources of food. Microplastics have entered the marine food chain and thus end up on our plates.” . It is very important to do more research on this topic. But we shouldn’t ignore the less visible pollution of glaciers. “Glaciers can harbor massive amounts of microplastics that eventually pollute rivers and marine environments – due to melting glaciers.”