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Poison in the "sea" food chain

The screeching of seagulls, the constant rustling of the waves, salty-tasting sea air and a stiff breeze: nature seems to be all right here by the sea ... But suddenly toxic sewage is being pumped from a cargo ship into the ocean! The deadly danger the poison means for the entire food chain in the sea and ultimately also for humans can be explored interactively here.

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The interactive animation provides information in an instructive and graphically funny way about the dangers that result from an accumulation of poison in the food chain. The seal, as a higher-order consumer, ingests a particularly large amount of toxins.

How animation works

The interactive animation begins in the middle of the sea - home to many plants and animals. In various episodes, one learns the serious consequences that toxins discharged into the sea have on the entire food cycle.

Sea creatures that have to be clicked to continue the animation are marked in red.

You can interactively intervene in the animation at several key scenes by clicking on the red colored objects. By clicking on the harpoon (bottom right) you can go back to the last scene of the animation.

Chronological sequence of the animation

The animation is triggered by clicking on the red cargo ship. A narrator informs you that the alga is at the beginning of the "sea" food chain. It absorbs nutrients, grows and thrives in the sun.

Mess! Wastewater is dumped into the sea from the cargo ship. The toxins are absorbed by the algae and stored in their cells. With far-reaching consequences: All animals in the sea are dependent on the energy that the algae produce through photosynthesis. As one of the first links in the food chain, small plankton crabs, for example, use plant energy directly.

The harpoon can be used to navigate to previous scenes in the animation.

The poisons accumulate more and more in the food chain from stage to stage. They often only develop their lethal effect on higher-order consumers. Since the seal has a higher energy requirement, it also absorbs more toxins. Soon a concentration of toxins is reached that his body can no longer cope with. The toxins are not biodegradable. They remain in the ecological cycle and thus cause further damage.

Absolute top predators, such as sharks, are particularly at risk. The drop makes the barrel overflow - the shark dies in agony due to the high consumption of the poison-enriched meat.

Since the shark has a higher energy requirement, it also absorbs more toxins. Soon a concentration of toxins is reached that his body can no longer cope with.

Unsuspecting, the fishermen in the cargo ship start their foray. A big chunk hit them! However, they will not enjoy their catch very much. After all, humans are also part of the food chain.

"Everything in the bucket" - seas as waste reservoirs

The oceans have been used as waste dumps throughout the history of mankind. However, the pollution of the oceans from waste has been particularly high since the industrial age. Since then, the problem has continued to grow. Garbage, industrial waste, sewage sludge and sewage from households and industrial plants are disposed of in the sea.

International ships are one of the main sources of waste. Instead of paying for garbage disposal in ports, polluters often just dump their garbage into the oceans. In addition, there is household and industrial waste that ends up in the oceans via rivers.

As the last link in the food chain, humans are at risk from consuming poison-enriched sharks.

At the end of 2006, 30 barrels containing highly toxic mercury were found off the coast of the Baltic Sea. They remind you that the disposal of such highly toxic substances into the sea was still common practice in the 50s and 60s of the last century. The above barrels came from the paper industry, which sank them completely legally in the Baltic Sea. Entire fish populations can be poisoned with it. If the substances get into the food chain, humans are also endangered.

Even today, in industry and, for example, in the production of atomic energy, highly hazardous substances are produced, the elimination of which poses problems. The oceans are considered to be a possible "final repository" for highly toxic sewage sludge or radioactive waste. Scientists aim to store these substances there until they are no longer harmful to humans. In the center of oceanic plates, far away from plate boundaries and thus from tectonic movement, stable, corrosion-resistant containers could be stored. Critics of these plans consider the risks involved to be too high.