Not only are coral reefs susceptible to climate change, but their complex structure is vulnerable to various man-made threats like plastic.
The marine life and the world’s precious coral reefs are in danger because of plastic pollution, a four-year study said. About 11 billion of plastic particles in the oceans are spreading disease on the world’s coral reefs.
The world’s coral reefs are getting sick because of plastic.
A new study published in the journal Science, which spanned to more than 100,000 reef-building corals in the Asia-Pacific region, found that the plastic on reefs spread pathogens or disease-causing microorganisms that cause lethal disease outbreaks.
In fact, the researchers at Cornell University in the United States revealed that when these plastic pieces touch the corals, the risk of getting sick soars from just four percent to a staggering 89 percent.
The team found that over one-third of the 159 coral reefs they studied was already contaminated with plastic.
The researchers said in the study:
“We estimate that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40 percent by 2025.”
“Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods.”
Plastic has a wide range of negative effects on coral reefs. The trash and waste materials dumped on land can carry harmful pathogens to the sea.
The already vulnerable and damaged coral reefs from the increasing water temperatures could have scratches that make it possible for bacteria to enter, causing infection.
Since coral reefs are vital to people and wildlife, disease outbreaks may put a risk on the survival of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth.
Coral reefs shelter many baby fish and marine life that provide food for millions of people, and they serve as buffers that help protect coasts from storm surge.
This study should serve as a wake-up call to all humans and government officials across the globe.
Humans should be responsible enough to reduce plastic waste as much as possible. Reusing, reducing and recycling plastic and other non-biodegradable waste products are important ways that we can do to help our oceans, coral reefs, and marine life.