The pioneering research of Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) has been featured in Sunday’s ground-breaking final episode of the BBC’s landmark Blue Planet II series.
PML, based in Plymouth, assisted the BBC’s Natural History Unit with information, filming and footage. Sunday’s episode, “Our Blue Planet”, highlighted the problems and challenges facing the ocean and its inhabitants, including the growing menace of plastics in our seas and the threats the ocean faces as a result of increasing CO2 levels.
“Many people are familiar with the large items of plastic litter washed up and concentrated on beaches, or floating on the sea surface, and with the impact this plastic poses to marine animals. However, the less easily seen microplastic is of equal concern,” said Dr Pennie Lindeque, leader of PML’s microplastics research. “Here at PML, we are investigating the distribution and movement of microplastic in the ocean, and its impact on marine ecosystems and the food chain.”
Dr Matt Cole, of PML’s Microplastic Research Group, added, “Our research has shown a range of zooplankton can consume microplastic. Zooplankton play an important role in marine food webs, providing energy to predators including fish and whales. We have found that microplastic can impact on zooplankton feeding, and this can have consequences for the survival and reproductive success of these animals, which can have knock-on effects further up the marine food web.”
Dr Carol Turley OBE, senior scientist at PML, also provided a wealth of information and guidance for the BBC’s Blue Planet II team on ocean acidification and its impacts on marine life.
“Even as a marine scientist I have watched the series with wonder,” said Carol. “It was heartening to see the BBC tackle the thorny human-made issues that are impacting the ocean, such as plastic, ocean warming and acidification. The ocean has taken up around 27% of our carbon dioxide emissions and this is causing ocean acidification - a change to the basic chemistry of the ocean. This is already having an impact, and will increase unless we take steps to reduce our emissions.”