Friday, June 14, 2024

This marine mushroom ‘eats plastic’

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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In a study published in the magazine Holistic ecologyA team of scientists from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research (NIOZ) has discovered a new species of marine fungus. Parengiodontium album (p.album), which has the peculiarity of being able to decompose polyethylene molecules.

Plastic pollution has led to the discovery of these marine fungi

If such a type of mushroom can be discovered, it is partly due to a very special phenomenon: plastic pollution of marine environments.

It is estimated that about 400 million tons of plastics are produced every year. According to the association Sea cleanersOf these plastics produced, between 9 and 14 million tons end up in the oceans.

It is this pollution in particular that led to the creation of the “seventh continent”, the plastic continent. Also known as “plastic soup,” it is huge. Indeed, the latter extends over an area of ​​​​more than 3.5 million square kilometers, equivalent to six times the size of France, and is located in the North Pacific Ocean.

This swirl of waste, just below or above the surface of the water, is an environmental and ecological disaster, and in this particularly remote region of the world, NIOZ scientists, led by postdoctoral student in microbiology and biochemistry Annika Vaksma, have made the discovery p.album.

Parengiodontium album It needs sunlight to break down the plastic

As a natural decontaminant, this marine mushroom still has its own way of doing things.

In fact, according to the results of the study conducted by Annika Vaksma, p.album It can only work on polyethylene (PE) particles that have been exposed to UV rays.

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The conclusion from this observation is very simple: this “plastic-eating” marine fungus can only attack polyethylene on or just below the surface, not the very many particles that have to litter the ocean floor.

However, the study assumes the existence of other species of marine fungi capable of attacking their own molecules from the sea floor, thus without UV treatment.

Parengiodontium album a marine fungus that produces carbon dioxide by breaking down plastic

In fact, according to the results of the study conducted by NIOZ scientists, Parengiodontium album It will release carbon dioxide when it “feeds” on the plastic:

Our measurements also showed that the fungus does not use much of the carbon generated by PE [ndlr, polyéthylène] When he breaks it. Most of the PE used by P. album is converted into carbon dioxide, which the fungus releases again“.

But then, are these marine fungi contaminated during the disinfection process?

No. Even if carbon dioxide is indeed a greenhouse gas, and is partly responsible for the hole in the ozone layer, it only causes pollution when it is released in large quantities.

Yes, because all humans, when they breathe, release some of it, but that is not what causes the pollution to accelerate.

In addition, if it is not present in large quantities, carbon dioxide released into the air can easily be captured by trees and plants and converted into oxygen.

source : PhysOrg

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