Nearly every seabird has plastic in its gut today

A new piece of research CSIRO and Imperial College London suggests that seabirds around the world are eating trash. They found that not only do nearly 90 percent of all seabirds today have plastic in their gut, but by 2050, this percentage will rise to nearly 99%. This could have devastating effects on the world's seabird population, which could then have a rippling effect on wildlife throughout the rest of the world, both in the sea and on the land.

The trash these birds have eaten includes everything from bottle caps to synthetic clothing. Plastic fibers, 6-pack plastic rings, and plastic bags. These bits of garbage have both been tossed into the ocean by ships and have been washed to sea from rivers inland, all around the world.

According to previous research, less than 5-percent of seabirds had plastic in their gut. By the year 2010, 80-percent of seabirds had plastic in their gut.

And don't for a second think this was because plastic just wasn't around back then – the first fully-synthetic plastic was produced all the way back in the year 1907. It was only in the 1960s that the world at large began to realize that plastics of all sorts were polluting the ocean.

The good news is that "effective waste management" can reduce this threat to wildlife. This study suggests that "nearly three-quarters" of all variation in plastic ingestion by seabirds "can be predicted by considering exposure and basic ecological information."

Because current information on plastic distribution can be directly accessed and cross-referenced with the data these researchers have found, they can target problem areas and begin the process of working with local governments to reduce plastic output.

For more information, see the paper "Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing" under code doi/10.1073/pnas.1502108112. This paper appeared in the journal PNAS and was authored by Dr Chris Wilcox, Dr Denise Hardesty, and Dr Erik van Sebille.