Microbes in Ocean Plastic Trash: Harmful and Promising

A team of scientists from the NTU has found both potential threats and promising resources in the thriving colonies of bacteria and fungi on plastic trash washed up on Singapore shores.

When plastics enter the ocean, microorganisms attach to and colonise them, forming an ecological community known as the 'Plastisphere'. Despite the millions of tonnes of plastic trash in the world's oceans, little is known about how the plastisphere assembles and interacts with its plastic hosts in tropical marine environments.

To understand the plastic-microbes interaction, NTU researchers extracted DNA information of plastispheres gathered from 14 coastal locations in Singapore. They found potential plastic-eating bacteria and harmful microbes thriving on the samples.

The study, published in Environment International in September, is among the few plastisphere studies in the Southeast Asian tropical marine and coastal environment, including coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, beaches, and open waters.

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