The Ecosystem of Trash Island


Between the coast of Japan and the coast of California, currents form whirlpools of trash, forming “trash islands.” A recent study published by the Nature Ecology & Evolution Journal has discovered that these trash islands have become so large that unique ecosystems are starting to form.

So what exactly is living in these ecosystems on a trash island? Some of these organisms include snails, small crabs, anemones, barnacles, muscles, oysters, jellyfish, sponges, worms, and various other small coastal sea life. And there are a lot of them! A recent study found sea life on 70.5% of the analyzed pieces of trash!

But, how is life able to form on a trash island? According to CNN, “findings suggest plastic pollution in the ocean might be enabling the creation of new floating ecosystems of species that are not normally able to survive in the open ocean.”

How did these animals end up here? Scientists predict that some of these animals ended up on these trash islands from previous tsunamis in Japan. This is why Japanese anemones were found on the coast in the spring of 2016 in California, Oregon, and Washington and showed up again in the spring of 2017.

So what is the impact of life forming on a trash island? For now, that remains unknown, but these unique ecosystems could possibly create invasive species. According to NPR, these small colonies have possible implications for all kinds of animals higher up the food chain like turtles, fish, and marine mammals who may come into contact with these trash islands. All we know is that none of these creatures belong here.