Marine pollution is an increasing problem in today’s world. The chemical and sewage pollution coming from the land are being dumped into the oceans.
This is causing a devastating effect on the life of many marine creatures. Such biological destruction of the marine life also results in damage to the environment, to the health of all organisms, increasing death rates, and damaging the various economical and ecological structures worldwide.
It has been estimated that around 80% of marine pollution comes from land. Such pollution occurs when harmful chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural, and residential waste directly gets into the oceans without any scientific treatments.
Most importantly the microplastic pollutants are causing devastating effects in marine life. Plastic kills fish, birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, destroy their habitats, and even affects their mating rituals.
Same like the other marine creatures, the lives of jellyfish are also being affected by pollution.
Now, that this pollution effect on jellyfish are destructive or leads to creation and improvement in their population is still a controversy.
Here in this post, we’ll know how the jellyfishes are affected by pollution along with many other information related things.
So, let’s get started…
How are Jellyfish affected by pollution?
One of the most important facts is that jellyfish are able to thrive in water with less amount of oxygen availability. That’s why jellyfish are thriving in those polluted water where other marine organisms can’t.
It is to be noted that in those areas where there is a high level of water pollution, there the high concentrations of dissolved pollutants such as phosphorus, nitrogen, etc. will be more. Due to this, in such areas, the (dissolved oxygen) DO concentration is much less than that of the freshwater at the same temperature.
Low dissolved oxygen (DO) primarily results from excessive algae growth caused by phosphorus. Nitrogen is another nutrient that can also contribute to algae growth.
Moreover, in polluted water, the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is always more. BOD is a measure of the oxygen used by microorganisms to decompose waste.
Therefore, the more organic waste present, the more bacteria there are decomposing this waste and using oxygen, so the BOD level will be high.
These all cause low availability of dissolved oxygen in order which causes a devastating effect on the life of the various marine organisms living there such as fish, turtles, etc.
One of the very interesting fact to note is that Jellyfish, or other Scyphozoans, have no structures dedicated to respiration or circulation. But, they still use a low concentration of oxygen and can even store it, allowing jellyfish to survive in low-oxygen conditions like the polluted water.
Are jellyfish affected by plastic pollution?
Most plastics that are dumped into the ocean break up into very small and tiny particles. These small plastic bits are called microplastics.
Plastic pollution is having a negative impact on our oceans. High-income countries generate the most plastic and a majority of these are dumped into the ocean where they get converted into microplastic.
Jellyfish are not at all affected by plastic pollution it’s because they have the ability to secrete jellyfish mucus to bind microplastic together. This jellyfish mucus is filled with clusters of stinging cells that make up a thin film over the microplastic pollutants.
Due to their low-oxygen need, they can every easily stay in polluted water and can increase their population extremely fast. They can next feed on the various fishes and other marine creatures available in that polluted water.
And when during the time of jellyfish reproduction or when it gets in a stressed situation it starts to secrete mucus into the surrounding seawater.
Jellyfish mucus (so-called slime) was previously shown to enable the capturing of nanoparticles, but also being an enzyme and microorganism rich scaffold in nature.
The emitted mucus has the useful property that it binds to microplastic and clean seawater from the adverse effects of microplastic. Thus, in the present day, such mucus can be actively used to remove microplastic, for instance by being included in bio-filters.
Microplastics and nanoplastics due to its smaller size cannot be trapped by biofilters thus leading to the cause of the massive increase of microplastic pollutants in the water.
The Jellyfishes are now used to make the biofilters to clean the microplastic and nanoplastic pollution in the oceans, rivers, lakes, or in any other water sewage treatments.
Recent researchers have shown that biofilters made with jellyfish mucus could be used in sewage treatment plants to fix this issue.
It’s a part of the GoJelly project. GoJelly’s goal is to develop a so-called biofilter from the mucus produced by the jellyfish.
How can jellyfish be affected by thermal pollution?
Thermal pollution is the rise in the temperature of the ocean water when power plants and factories discharge hot or cold water into the ocean.
This is injurious to water-dwelling life and is caused by the disposal of heated industrial wastewater or water from the cooling towers of nuclear power plants.
There is a limit to the surrounding temperature an organism can tolerate as each organism has a specific temperature need.
Thus, due to the excessive pollution that results in the ocean temperature changes may also result in a thermal shock to aquatic life, causing reproduction difficulties, and an increase in the death rate of the various marine organisms.
As a result, the dissolved oxygen level decreases with the increase in algae and bacteria population. This results in the death of various marine fishes and other creatures.
But, it has been seen that when the thousands of marine animals around the world are at risk of extinction due to thermal pollution, jellyfish are still alive as they are well-adapted enough to thrive in warm, polluted water with less oxygen.
It has also been seen that the global populations of many jellyfish species have skyrocketed during the past few decades leading to jellyfish blooms mostly in the polluted regions.
Moreover, it has been estimated that about 93% of the excess heat that is being released into the surrounding atmosphere due to the Greenhouse effect is also absorbed by ocean water. Thus, leading to the overall increase in the thermal heat of the ocean water.
Unlike many marine species, jellyfish have no adverse effect due to the thermal heat increase of the water. It can comfortably thrive in warmer water with less oxygen need.
And moreover, there are very few jellyfish predators in such low-oxygen water thus causing little to no negative impact on the reproduction, growth, and sustainability of the various jellyfish species.
How do jellyfish impact the environment?
It is always good when the ecosystem is balanced. Let it be a terrestrial ecosystem or marine ecosystem, life sustains well when all the life conditions are fulfilled in a balanced way.
The excessive increase of the jellyfish population has been known to create a negative impact on the marine ecosystem. Most probably in the polluted waters near the industries, sewage plants, and nuclear plants.
The explosion in jellyfish numbers will not only impact the various trophic level of the marine ecosystem but may also lead to ecological disaster as well.
In some places, this may also cause various critical conditions just like in the shores of Japan where the increasing bloom of Jellyfish has caused various nuclear plants to shut down along with the decrease in the availability of many economically important fishes.
A dramatic global increase in jellyfish swarms (jellyfish bloom) could damage the marine food chain. It’s because the jellyfish increasing population will start feeding on the various other marine creatures and thus depleting their population at an extremely fast rate.
The jellyfish population will also become uncontrollable as there will very few jellyfish-predators in the polluted regions of the water. Thus, there will be very little to no threat to the life of these creatures and so their population will keep on blooming over time.
Moreover, the excessive increase of the jellyfish population will also disrupt the carbon cycle of the particular marine place. As, new research suggests that they, in turn, may be worsening the problem by producing more carbon than the oceans can cope up with.
Marine bacteria can play an important role by recycling nutrients created by decaying organisms back into the food web. But the excessive growth of jellyfish effects this mechanism.
After the death of jellyfish, marine bacteria cannot absorb the excess of carbon from their biomass to decompose them. Thus, instead of using it to grow, the bacteria breathe it out as carbon dioxide thus releasing more of the gas into the atmosphere.
And the increase of carbon dioxide levels in water can make the water turn acidic. It’s because when more carbon dioxide is added to seawater the water becomes more acidic. And, already that is happening at a rate that hasn’t occurred in the past 600 million years.
Thus, the increase in the population of jellyfish has been a clear sign of the increasing climate change, thermal pollution, global warming, over-fishing, and the run-off of the agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, sewage water, plastic pollutants into the ocean.
Can jellyfish fight ocean pollution?
Yes, jellyfish may have the ability to fight against ocean pollution and the scientists are still ongoing their continuous research and studies on the factors derived from jellyfish that will be able to help remove the various pollution from the ocean water.
Just like the mucus that is secreted from the jellyfish when they are in times of stress are able to bind microplastic and neuroplastic pollutants in the water by forming a thin film over it.
When the jellyfish are alive they don’t help in getting rid of the excessive pollution but in fact, they ruin the marine ecosystem and its food chain.
But, when the mucus-type substances are extracted from them then it may make the use of great Slimy mucus that better acts as great biofilters.
The sticky jellyfish mucus can extract gold nanoparticles from water as well, and now the scientists are working to see if its adhesive properties extend to plastics, too.
In the Future, Jellyfish Slime (mucus) may be the best solution to get rid of Microplastic Pollution. That’s for sure!
Currently, wastewater plants do a good job of treating wastewater to remove organic material and microbes, but they are still struggling with plastic particles. This will soon be solved in the near future due to the jellyfish mucus build-biofilter use.
Moreover, several nutrients like proteins, antioxidants, and minerals like selenium and choline are also present in various venomous and non-venomous jellyfish. The collagen found in jellyfish may also contribute to health benefits like reduced blood pressure.
So, now scientists are actually discovering ways to remove the venom and other stinging particles from the fatal jellyfish so that they can be turned into highly nutritious food particles for the humans.