Ocean plastics raise risk of coral reef disease, scientists warn


Australian reefs had the least amount of plastic observed on reefs, which the researchers attribute to a more comprehensive system for waste control. Starting in 2011, Lamb and her team studied roughly 12,000 square meters of reef, much of which was off the coast of Asia, and were able to determine that the level of plastic waste in a reef is a key factor in how healthy the reef itself is. "What we do find is these corals with a lot of complexity like branches and finger-like corals will become eight times more likely to be entangled in these types of plastics". Bacterial pathogens ride aboard the plastics, disturbing delicate coral tissues and their microbiome.

A recent study took a look at 100,000 reefs in the Asia-Pacific oceans and found that 11 billion pieces of plastic were choking the fragile reefs.

As well as documenting the plastic waste they saw, the scientists visually examined almost 125,000 corals, looking for evidence of disease.

It is vital to preserve the health of coral reefs for a number of reasons.

In collaboration with numerous experts and underwater surveyors across Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Australia, we collected data from 159 coral reefs between 2010 and 2014. There's more than 275 million people relying upon coral reefs for food, coastal protection, tourism income and cultural significance.

The study, which was led by Joleah Lamb of Cornell University, is the culmination of years of surveying dozens and dozens of coral reefs.

26 de enero de 2018, 00:16Canberra, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) Scientists from an global team warned in a study published today that the contact of corals with plastic waste increases the chances of these organisms contracting diseases.

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By increasing coral's susceptibility to disease, plastic may contribute to the devastation of the world's reefs, many of which have already been weakened by a string of climate change-induced bleaching events. "Our study adds plastic waste to that ever growing list".

It's no secret that the world's coral reefs are in bad shape.

Journal Reference: Joleah B. Lamb et al. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - a very common plastic used in children's toys, building materials like pipes, and many other products - have been found carrying a family of bacteria called Rhodobacterales, which are associated with a suite of coral diseases.

Matthew Savoca, a marine scientist at the the University of California, Davis, who studies the effects of plastic in the ocean, suggests that ocean waters with lots of plastic waste might also carry other pollutants that could also be contributing to higher rates of coral disease.

Corals that weren't in with garbage had just a four per cent chance of being visibly diseased.

However, he noted that while plastic could present an extra challenge and may be linked with an increase in disease risk, this study does not show that plastics are carrying pathogens into the reefs.