Excerpt from The Guardian
Accumulated plastic debris on the beaches of two remote island groups increased local maximum temperatures by nearly 2.5C, new research has found.
A study of Henderson Island in the South Pacific and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a remote territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean, found that plastic pollution acts as an insulator, increasing the temperature of the underlying sand.
Researchers warn the daily temperature fluctuations as a result of plastic pollution could have significant implications for coastal ecosystems, including animals such as sea turtles and migratory shorebirds.
Previously, plastic pollution at the two locations was found to have killed more than half a million hermit crabs.
The researchers, from the University of Tasmania’s Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and the Natural History Museum in London, measured daily temperature fluctuations in beach sediments at six sites on the islands.
They found plastic pollution was linked to a rise in daily maximum temperatures of 2.45C, and a drop in daily minimums by 1.5C. The study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, found up to 3kg of plastic per square metre on the islands’ beaches, where some locations are uninhabited.
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