Plastic waste associated with disease on coral reefs

An international study published in the journal Science has warned that plastic waste is having a major impact on coral reefs, increasing the likelihood of disease in corals by twenty times.

The study, led by Cornell University and including researchers from James Cook University,

surveyed 159 coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. Billions of plastic items were entangled in the reefs. The more spikey the coral species, the more likely they were to snag plastic.

The study found that disease likelihood increased 20-fold once a coral was draped in plastic. Plastic debris stresses coral through light deprivation, toxin release, and anoxia, giving pathogens a foothold for invasion.

The researchers estimated that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40% by 2025.

“Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods.”

The article “Plastic waste associated with disease on coral reefs” is available here.

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