Turkish scientists carried out 18 different projects in the fields of earth science, life science, physical science and social sciences during the 7th National Antarctic Science Expedition in Antarctica, also known as the “continent of science and peace”, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Under the auspices of the Turkish Presidency, coordinated by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkiye’s (TUBITAK) Polar Research Institute and under the responsibility of the Turkish Industry and Technology Ministry, the 7th National Antarctic Science Expedition became a rich lab for scientific research for Turkish scientists at the South Pole.
In their research on the white continent, the scientists carried out projects while preserving the Antarctic ecosystem and using algae samples taken from the sea.
During their research, the scientists also tracked the traces of microplastic pollution by collecting samples from the sea, lakes, and snow.
‘Project into state of microplastic pollution’
Guleda Engin, from the Environmental Engineering Department of Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University, said that they have been working on microplastic pollution for a few years and proposed a project into the state of microplastic pollution in Antarctica, around Horseshoe Island, in an area far from human settlements.
Pointing out, while plastic provides convenience and ease, it also has detrimental effects on the environment, Engin said plastic ends up in the sea and over time, it breaks down into microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles less than 3 millimetres in size.
Underlining that these plastics harm living creatures in nature, especially aquatic organisms and fish, she said: “They accumulate in them and reach us by being included in the food chain. We wanted to learn the extent of the pollution of these microplastics. As I have said, will we encounter microplastic pollution again in Antarctica, where there are no settlements anywhere near? We’re here to get answers to these questions.”
‘Microplastics even in Antarctica’
Evrim Celik Madenli, an environmental engineering lecturer at Suleyman Demirel University, said that she carried out a project to investigate microplastic densities in snow and ice samples from Antarctica and snow samples from the Katrancik and Davraz Mountains in Turkiye.
“In my project, I chose two different mountains from Turkiye. One of them is Davraz, a tourist centre with heavy winter tourism. The other is Mount Katrancik, where human activities are very limited. We want to compare the microplastic densities in mountains with and without human activities between these two peaks.”
As Antarctica is a continent far from human settlements, scientists have hypothesised that there would be no microplastics or pollution but, in fact, microplastics have been found at the bottom or the world, she said.
Madenli added that she hopes to investigate the presence of microplastics in the mountains in Turkiye, with or without human tourism, and in places where human activities are limited, such as Antarctica.
Ekrem Cem Cankiriligil, a researcher at the Fisheries Department – Sheep Breeding Research Institute in Turkiye’s Balikesir province, said they are trying to research substances with anti-Alzheimer, anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties by investigating the nutrient content and phytochemical contents of macro algae found in Antarctica.
Noting that Antarctica has marine environments where light transmittal is very different than elsewhere, he added: “Thus, the chemistry of the algae here has been shaped according to these factors and is very promising.”
Cankiriligil noted that they determined the species of macroalgae found on the shores of Horseshoe Island and carried out various chemical analyses to investigate the possibilities of using these algae in medicine and other fields.
Ozden Fakioglu, of Ataturk University’s Department of Fisheries Basic Sciences in the Erzurum province, said phytoplankton forms the basis of the food pyramid and they hope to provide many ideas for the development and quality of lakes.
Saying that she was on Horseshoe Island as part of the TUBITAK Pole 1001 Project, she explained they completed their study by taking plankton and water samples from four lakes on the island.
Stressing that they will make two separate analyses with examples after returning to Turkiye, he said: “We’re planning to evaluate whether there’s any difference in the composition of phytoplankton in lakes in 2023, compared to previous studies and what factors contribute to this difference. With metagenomic analyses, we aim to find if there are species that have not been detected before.”