"Plastics are thus entering the short Antarctic terrestrial food webs and represent a new potential stressor to polar ecosystems already facing climate change and increasing human activities," the authors wrote in the study, published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.
The team of researchers from Italy and Ireland collected the samples from a piece of polystyrene foam on King George Island, just north of the Antarctic continent. They believe the springtails ingested the plastic while feeding on their normal sustenance, the moss, lichens and algae that covered the piece of foam.
Elisa Bergami, a researcher at the University of Siena in Italy who led the project, explained their decision to take the samples back for testing when speaking to CNN.
"I was anxious about plastic debris stranded along the coast because we wanted to understand the pathways of plastic in this remote environment," she said.
Another one of the study’s authors, Tancredi Caruso, told the outlet that their discovery raises concerns for the entire Antarctic ecosystem.
“For a long time, there's been some underestimation of the potential negative role of plastics in ecosystems," Caruso, an associate professor at University College Dublin, said.
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