11 billion pieces of plastic bring disease threat to coral reefs

Dr. Lamb performing reef surveys on the Great Barrier Reef Australia

In the Asia-Pacific region a total of 11.1 billion plastic items - including shopping bags, fishing nets, even diapers and tea-bags - are ensnared on reefs, the scientists wrote in the journal Science. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic". It gets caught on reef branches, cutting corals and opening abrasions that expose them to disease.

The researchers said the finding adds to the burden of climate-related disease outbreaks that have already had an impact on coral reefs globally. These reefs provide the USA around $375 billion in goods and services through fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection, and when you consider that 80 percent of this debris originates on land, curbing the problem is very much in our power. To start with, plastic in the ocean is a magnet for bacteria, including some implicated in coral diseases.

The good news, the authors say, is that everyone can help tackle the problem through small changes in their lifestyle, such as reducing the use of plastic packaging or single-use plastic items.

"It's really sad", she said.

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

But Lamb found a different environment in Southeast Asia, home to some of the world's most diverse and handsome coral reefs. Her research on the Great Barrier Reef lead to the first study to demonstrate that marine protected areas are effective for mitigating coral disease outbreaks by directly displacing human activities.

In collaboration with numerous experts and underwater surveyors across Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Australia, we collected data from 159 coral reefs between 2010 and 2014.

Plastic could also actively transport pathogens into coral reefs.

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White syndrome is spread by bacteria, and causes parts of corals to die leaving a white band of dead tissue.

"They do not present clear evidence as to whether the pathogens were transferred by the plastic - but that is certainly a possibility", he said.

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. Turtles and fish can mistakenly eat plastic debris and it's estimated that more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement. The scholar argued that this indicator is equivalent to 15.7 billion in all coral reefs of Asia Pacific by 2025.

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.

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Based on other studies, the researchers think there are a couple of ways the plastic could be causing disease.

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