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Plastic pollution: A focus on freshwater biodiversity

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Researchers find that plastics have a serious and complex impact on freshwater ecosystems that is often overlooked by the impacts of plastics on marine ecosystems. They suggest urgent action be taken to address this urgent global crisis. Learn more about these impacts.

Abstract: Plastics are dominant pollutants in freshwater ecosystems worldwide. Scientific studies that investigated the interaction between plastics and freshwater biodiversity are incipient, especially if compared to the marine realm. In this review, we provide a brief overview of plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems around the world. We found evidence of plastic ingestion by 206 freshwater species, from invertebrates to mammals, in natural or semi-natural ecosystems. In addition, we reported other consequences of synthetic polymers in freshwater ecosystems—including, for instance, the entanglement of animals of different groups (e.g., birds). The problem of plastic pollution is complex and will need coordinated actions, such as recycling programs, correct disposal, stringent legislation, regular inspection, replacement of synthetic polymers with other materials, and ecological restoration. Current information indicates that the situation in freshwater ecosystems may be as detrimental as the pollution found in the ocean, although highly underappreciated.

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