Plankton can tell us how polluted the world’s oceans are.
That’s according to scientists from the Marine Biological Association, which claim that the rise in manmade chemicals present in the ocean has enabled them to understand how much human activity is impacting marine wildlife.
Since plankton are sensitive to changes in their environment, they are the perfect indicator of contamination, the researchers state.
Samples were studied from three locations between 2002 and 2020 – one from an area densely populated by people, one in a remote location and one near a busy fishery.
Areas near human activity were the most polluted, with the scientists revealing that traces of human chemicals had actually reduced in more remote parts of the ocean within the last 20 years.
Lead author Professor Robert Naviaux said: “It is my hope that the use of our methods by research groups around the world will reinforce the connection between ecosystem health and human health and provide new tools to monitor how the human chemical footprint has changed over the past century.”
Levels of pollution based on human actions can now be tracked far more easily, the study claims.