Tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. And the trash stays there: Whether it’s grocery bags or water bottles or kids’ toys, plastic is practically indestructible.
Now marine scientists have discovered that it’s killing coral reefs.
A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries (Australia, , Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar) are heavily contaminated with plastic clings to the branching coral and it sickens or kills them
As per researchers report the likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when they are in contact with plastic trash.
Scientist says; the plastic harming coral in two ways. one bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral.
In addition, Plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral.
Scientists found increased risk of four diseases in coral in contact with plastic.
There are really great studies showing how much plastic is going into the oceans and how much is floating on the surface but we really didn’t have an idea about what’s underneath the surface of the ocean.
The more they looked, especially in Asian waters, the more they found: cotton swabs, food wrappers, bottles, diapers. They noticed that coral that had plastic didn’t look healthy.
Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world’s coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.
Australian reefs had the least amount of plastic observed on reefs, which the researchers attribute to a more comprehensive system for waste control. Other countries in the Pacific don’t have much control over what ends up in the waste stream.
Coral reefs already are susceptible to bleaching due to unusually warm water, either from seasonal shifts in water temperature or from human-caused global warming. Bleached coral is more susceptible to disease. The bleached coral is stressed. Plastic would make things that much worse.
A marine scientist 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.
But another scientist says that corals within yards of each other showed a noticeable difference: Those with plastic were much more likely to be diseased.
Exactly how the plastic is causing disease is still unclear. What is clear from numerous studies is that the amount of plastic getting into the oceans is on the rise.