Plastic trash is the latest threat to coral reefs

A scuba diver checking coral reefs in the Red Sea off the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat

A scuba diver checking coral reefs in the Red Sea off the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat

Her group found increased risk of four diseases in coral in contact with plastic.

"Our work shows that plastic pollution is killing corals", says Cornell's Prof.

In order to assess how much plastic there is in the reefs, global researchers surveyed more than 150 reefs for four years (from 2011 to 2014).

We do not know the exact mechanism, but plastics are ideal conductors for the colonization of microscopic organisms that could spread ailments if they come into contact with corals, she added.

Researchers estimate the number of plastic items will rise by 40 percent by 2025 as marine pollution gets steadily worse. Bacterial pathogens ride aboard the plastics, disturbing delicate coral tissues and their microbiome.

"What's troubling about coral disease is that once the coral tissue loss occurs, it's not coming back", said Dr Lamb.

"Its like getting gangrene on your foot and there is nothing you can do to stop it from affecting your whole body", the researcher said.

Scientists are still uncertain why plastics are so unsafe for coral but saw how the exposure to plastics caused the organisms stress through light deprivation, toxin release and the absence of oxygen.

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This year has already seen a United Kingdom ban on the manufacture of products containing tiny fragments of plastic called microbeads, as well as debate over the future of disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles.

The findings, published in the journal Science, add to the burden of climate-related disease outbreaks that have already had an impact on coral reefs globally, James Cook University Emeritus Professor Bette Willis said. "Our study indicates that decreasing the levels of plastic debris entering the ocean by improving waste management infrastructure is critical for reducing the amount of debris on coral reefs and the associated risk of disease and structural damage".

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

An estimated 80% of marine plastic debris originates from land. Every now and then she'd note a scrap of plastic as she swam through.

This bleached states can last for up to six weeks, and while corals can recover if the temperature drops and the algae return, severely bleached corals die, and become covered by algae. Of the plastic-free reefs, which were few and far between, only 4 percent were infected with other diseases.

However, the fact that so many big pieces of plastic were found around corals might also have an upside: it allows scientists to identify the sources of that plastic, and perhaps start tackling the pollution problem there.

But Lamb found a different environment in Southeast Asia, home to some of the world's most diverse and attractive coral reefs.

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