Scientists claim motorboats cause damage to the sea’s food chain

A new study claims that turbulence caused by motorboats is killing zooplankton

A new study claims that turbulence generated by speeding motorboats kills significant numbers of zooplankton.

Experiments on copepods,

tiny crustaceans that live and float in water, show that a third die in waters

frequented by propeller-driven boats – significantly more than in bodies of water not used by boats.

According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, even a small amount of turbulence can affect a copepod’s ability to feed and grow.

 “A number of studies have been performed that looked at the impacts of much smaller scale turbulence on zooplankton,” said Samantha Bickel, a PhD student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, US, who carried out the research.

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“But to my

knowledge, no one had explored the idea that the intense turbulence generated

by boats could have an adverse impact on zooplankton.”

Bickel’s findings showed that 34% of copepods were found dead in a heavily-used channel while only 5-6% were dead in a marina and along a shoreline. More copepod carcasses were found inside boat wakes (14%) than outside boat wakes (7%) and the fraction of dead copepods increased with increasing turbulence intensity.

However, scientists have not yet been able to establish how many boats might cause a problem, and much would depend on their size and speed, which have a large effect on the turbulence they create.

“When viewed at a global scale, the portion of zooplankton killed by boat-generated turbulence is probably minimal,” Bickel says.


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