Skip links and keyboard navigation

Living things (biota)

Living things (biota)

Select from the tabs below

Living things (biota)

When living things ingest waste material, they can become a sink, for that waste. Many studies have focused on the impact of plastic and other waste on living things. However, the probability and extent of waste ingested by living things is not well understood. Research by Grant et al (2021) has found that seabirds are a transfer mechanism for marine-derived plastics. They ingest at sea and reintroduce items back into the terrestrial environment, thus making seabird colonies a sink for plastic debris[2].

One study team has suggested that 100,000 tonnes of plastic, including nanoplastics, could be inside animals at any point in time[4]. The nature of micro- and nanoplastics and their harmful consequences has drawn significant attention in recent years in the context of environmental protection. An excellent review paper was released in February 2021 which investigates this evolving subject, focusing on the documented human health and marine environment impacts of micro- and nanoplastics and including a discussion of the economic challenges and strategies to mitigate this waste problem[1].

A study found that microplastics affected the biomass of phytoplankton species, the impact varied depending on location and season, and some species had greater tolerance to the chemicals[3].

As with the other parts of our environment, the extent and impact of plastics ingested by living things requires further study.


  1. ^ Ahmed, S, Rahman, MM, Siddiki, SY, Islam, ABM, Shahabuddin, M, Ong, HC, Indra, T, Djavanroodi, F & Show, PL (1 April 2021), 'Source, distribution and emerging threat of micro- and nanoplastics to marine organism and human health: Socio-economic impact and management strategies', Environmental Research, vol. 195, p. 110857.
  2. ^ Grant, M, Lavers, J, Hutton, I & Bond, A (1 February 2021), 'Seabird breeding islands as sinks for marine plastic debris', Environmental Pollution, vol. 276, p. 116734.
  3. ^ M’Rabet, C, Yahia, OKD, Couet, D, Gueroun, SKM & Pringault, O (2019), 'Consequences of a contaminant mixture of bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), two plastic-derived chemicals, on the diversity of coastal phytoplankton', Marine Pollution Bulletin. [online], vol. 138, pp. 385-396. Available at:
  4. ^ van Sebille, E, Wilcox, C, Lebreton, L, Maximenko, N, Hardesty, BD, van Franeker, JA, Eriksen, M, Siegel, D, Galgani, F & Lavender Law, K (2015), 'A global inventory of small floating plastic debris.', Environmental Research Letters. [online], vol. 10, no. 12. Available at:

Last updated: 10 May 2021

This page should be cited as:

Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland (2021) Living things (biota), WetlandInfo website, accessed 18 March 2024. Available at:

Queensland Government
WetlandInfo   —   Department of Environment, Science and Innovation