The geology of the Brazilian volcanic island of Trindade has been the subject of study and fascination of scientists for years. However, the recent discovery of rocks formed by plastic debris on this remote site is setting off alarm bells.
The molten plastic has intermingled with the rocks on the island, located 1,140 kilometers from the southeastern state of Espirito Santo, which researchers say is evidence of the growing influence of humans on the Earth’s geological cycles.
Geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos, from the Federal University of Paraná, and her team conducted chemical tests to find out what type of plastics are in the rocks, called “plastiglomerates” because they are formed by a mixture of sedimentary granules and other debris bound by plastic.
“We identified that (the contamination) comes mainly from fishing nets, which are very common debris on the beaches of Trinidad Island,” Santos said. “The nets are dragged by sea currents and accumulate on the beach. When the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the natural beach material.”
Trindade Island serves as a crucial location for the preservation of the green turtle, scientifically known as Chelonia mydas, as it attracts numerous turtles annually for the purpose of egg-laying. The Brazilian Navy maintains a base on the island and is the only human presence, ensuring the safety of the nesting turtles.
“The place where we found these (plastic) samples is a permanently preserved area of Brazil, close to where the green turtles lay their eggs,” explains Santos.
The discovery raises questions about the legacy of humans on Earth and the impact we are having on the environment.
Santos mentioned that we frequently discuss the Anthropocene, which is the current geological era characterized by the impact of human activity on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems. He pointed out that pollution, ocean litter, and plastic waste that is not properly disposed of are becoming part of the Earth’s geological materials, which will be preserved in the planet’s geological records.
The discovery of plastic rocks in Trindade is a wake-up call to take urgent action to protect our planet. Pollution is not only affecting marine life, but it is also changing the Earth’s geology and leaving a worrying legacy for future generations.