The big question now is: what does it do to the ice cap?

After researchers have already found microplastics in oceans, on mountains, in hollows, sea ice and our droppings, scientists have also discovered the tiny pieces of plastic in Europe’s largest ice cap. Researchers write this in the magazine Durability.

Scientists have researched Vatnajökull – a glacier in Iceland. And they found various microplastics there. And that’s quite surprising, says researcher Hlynur Stefansson in conversation with of.

The researchers kind of expected to encounter microplastics. “Although we also took into account that we wouldn’t find them because the glacier is so far away.” But what surprised the researchers was that so many microplastics have been found. “The amount and variety of microplastics found in the ice cores we collected from this glacier surprised me.”

Through the atmosphere
It is believed that the microplastics were transported to the ice cap by air. “The place where we sampled the ice cap is very far away, so direct pollution is very unlikely,” Stefansson explains. “Microplastics will most likely reach the glacier because they are transported through the atmosphere. However, little research has been done on the atmospheric transport of these particles. “

Microplastics for impact vans
It is also unclear what impact microplastics have on glaciers such as Vatnajökull. “Microplastics could possibly influence the structure of glaciers and the extent to which glaciers absorb light and thus also influence the melting of the vulnerable cryosphere (ice zones, editor’s note). However, we do not yet know whether microplastics speed up, slow down, or significantly affect the melting of glaciers. If it depends on Stefansson, that will change soon. “In my opinion, it is crucial to know whether microplastics have an effect on the melting of glaciers. Recent research has shown that melting glaciers have a significant effect on sea level rise; an important consequence of global climate change. “

Track Search
But there are plenty of other questions researchers would like to see answered. For example: how do microplastics end up in the ice cap? “We don’t understand well enough how microplastics spread in our environment,” Stefansson says. In addition, it is also important to clarify exactly how many microplastics are lodged in glaciers.

Research on microplastics in ice is still in its infancy; in recent years, the main focus has been on microplastics in water. It makes sense, Stefansson says. “You can very well see plastic pollution on beaches and elsewhere in marine environments, which is why it attracts attention. Marine environments are also teeming with life and are important sources of food. Microplastics have entered the marine food chain and therefore end up on our plates. It is very important that more research be done on this. But we must not forget the less obvious pollution of glaciers. “Glaciers can harbor enormous amounts of microplastics which end up – by melting glaciers – polluting rivers and marine environments.”