Experts warn that not only bleaching and global warming are killing off the world’s coral reefs. Plastic waste is as dangerous as those two for the overall well-being of the tiny marine animals.
A new study shows that exposure to plastic debris can sicken coral reefs in the long term. Lead author Joleah Lamb explained that plastics harbor microbes which can lead to disease when they reach corals.
Toothbrushes and bottle caps can become welcoming homes to bacteria that can cause the white syndrome across entire coral reef systems.
- In their study, researchers sifted through data on nearly 160 coral reefs in Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, and Myanmar.
- They found that there is a statistically significant link between plastics and disease across the coral reefs there.
The research team found that the risk of disease was sitting at 4% in areas not polluted by plastics, while in the areas with high plastic density, the risk jumped to a whopping 80% when plastic waste reached corals.
Plastic Waste Can Push Up Risk of Disease in Coral Reefs
This means that plastics can multiply the risk of disease outbreaks in corals by 20 times. The latest research is the first one to highlight a link between plastic waste and the health of coral reefs.
Senior author Drew Harvell confirmed that plastics are killing corals but urged authorities and the scientific community to focus less on the corals that are dying and focus more on finding a solution to plastic pollution.
Harvell explained that plastic pollution, unlike global warming, can be addressed in the short term with the right policies.
Researchers also found that more than 10 billion plastic items have come into contact with the coral reef systems in the Asia-Pacific area. That number could jump to 25 billion over the next seven years.
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