Plastic stones in Brazil: what does this discouraging discovery mean?

Plastic stones in Brazil. Photo: Fernanda Avelar Santos

Four days by boat from the coasts of Brazil, is the island of trinidad, where several species of animals and plants are endemic (including endangered turtles). The island is practically virgin territory, since it has never had human settlements other than a group of just 32 people who travel from time to time to collect data on the flora and fauna. It is precisely its distance from civilization that has caused the concern of the scientific community, which recently discovered that even in this inhospitable spot there is a presence of human footprints.

so announced Fernanda Avelar Santosa geologist from the Federal University of Paraná, who a few days ago discovered plastiglomerates in the soil of the island of Trinidad, that is, stones created from organic sediments in combination with plastic waste. These plastic stones had already been seen in areas such as Hawaii, Great Britain and Japan, islands with a huge concentration of human populations, however, it is until now that the stones have been seen in an area so isolated from civilization.

plastic stones
Plastic stones on the ground of the Island of Trinidad in Brazil. Photo: Fernanda Avelar Santos

According to Avelar, these rocks were formed from the sun melting plastic, generally from fishing nets that are very common in the areas surrounding Trinidad Island. After a certain time, these melted with the rocks of the sea and is a clear example of what is now known as the “Anthropocene”, a geological era characterized by human presence and its impact on the formation (and deformation ) from the ground, an unprecedented event in the history of geology.

“Our finding is further evidence, and also a warning, that human impact, as well as its residues, are so present in the environment that they have begun to influence processes that were previously considered essentially natural, such as rock formation”, declared Avelar in an interview for the Brazilian government.

As previously mentioned, discovering these rocks in an area so far removed from human life is a great concern, especially since Trinidad Island has a delicate ecosystem that to this day is struggling to preserve.

The location of our discovery is close to the largest nesting region of the green turtle ( Chelonia mydas ) in Brazil”, explained the doctoral student. “Besides, he’s a habitat natural for seabirds, crabs and hosts a fragile and unique ecosystem that includes endemic species of fish and different sets of reefs. The region presents geological formations and habitats only ones that need to be preserved. In this sense, plastic has important implications for biodiversity and it is necessary to investigate the impacts of these plastic-composed rocks, since they represent a source of microplastics for the entire region.”

Trinidad Island - Green Turtle
The island of Trinidad is home to the green turtle, an endangered species that is now endangered by the presence of plastic stones. Photo: CRAM Foundation

Microplastics are a problem that has caused a lot of buzz in recent years. It is known (as Santos reiterates) that they have even been found in the bloodstream, which works as another example of how this material has impacted the life of the entire planet. The first problem for the fauna of this island, and for animals in general, is that animals can confuse plastic waste with food, and by eating it, their health is put at risk. This problem is already a fact, because on the internet you can find endless images and videos of turtles that have eaten plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish or straws stuck in their nostrils.

Finally, Santos defines this discovery as “new and terrifying”, since it seems that the human “invasion” of the entire planet is imminent.