High concentrations of floating life in the plastic-rich North Pacific Garbage Patch

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Abstract: “Floating life (obligate neuston) is a core component of the ocean surface food web. However, only 1 region of high neustonic abundance is known so far, the Sargasso Sea in the Subtropical North Atlantic gyre, where floating life provides critical habitat structure and ecosystem services. Here, we hypothesize that floating life is also concentrated in other gyres with converging surface currents. To test this hypothesis, we collected samples through the eastern North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in the area of the North Pacific “Garbage Patch” (NPGP) known to accumulate floating anthropogenic debris. We found that densities of floating life were higher inside the central NPGP than on its periphery and that there was a positive relationship between neuston abundance and plastic abundance for 3 out of 5 neuston taxa, Velella, Porpita, and Janthina. This work has implications for the ecology of subtropical oceanic gyre ecosystems.”

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