Highly toxic pollutants have been found in the world’s deepest sea trenches, a sign of the environmental damage wreaked by human activity on even the planet’s most remote habitats, according to new research.
The results of surveys in the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, published in the latest edition of Nature Ecology & Evolution, highlight both the scope of human ecological impact and the resilience of some synthetic compounds used in common industrial and consumer products. Scavenging, shrimp-like crustaceans in Pacific Ocean canyons many kilometres underwater are contaminated with extremely high levels of long-banned chemicals that have persisted in the environment for decades, scientists say.
Alan Jamieson, an academic from the UK’s Newcastle University who led the research, said his team found contamination levels similar to those in Japan’s Suruga Bay area, a notorious industrial pollution black spot in the Pacific Ocean. “We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” Mr Jamieson said. “The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants in one of the most remote and inaccessible habitats on earth really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet.”