The visible signs of the effect of pollution on the health of our oceans are without doubt striking. We should all be shocked by Images of devastated coral reefs, of albatrosses strangled with plastics, and by dead whales whose last meal was a lethal cocktail of various types of synthetic flotsam. However, it is the life forms that we can’t see, and how we influence their activities, that will be a pivotal factor that will govern the future health of our seas, and that will shape their life supporting chemistry. Our planets oceans teem with invisible microbial life such that a single millilitre of seawater, in a genetic and microbial sense, has more complexity than the human genome. We often overlook that fact that pollution will dramatically influence the activity of these microorganisms, but since they underpin all of the more visible forms of marine life, our influence on these will have far reaching, but at first invisible, effects.
In the videos here, the elegant microscopic organism Volvox, has been exposed to a black and viscous micropollutant to illustrate the invisible impact of pollution, and in particular the insidious nature of polluting agents like microplastics.