Plastic Trash Contaminates Coral Reefs

Coral reefs get polluted with plastic trash which spreads many diseases. The marine ecologist Assistant Professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat says that in Thailand, the total area which experiences coral reef damage has increased from 30% to 77%. Thon Thamrongnawasawat is the deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University. He argues that approximately 140,000 out of 107,800 rai of coral reef area was dramatically impacted due to human destruction.

Unhealthy coral reefs continue to expand at an alarming rate. In 2008, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment indicates that 42,000 rai out of 140,000 rai of coral were completely destroyed. Prof Thon indicates that pollution and tourism are some of the main reasons why this happened. Residential houses, resorts, and beachfront hotels release polluted water into the sea, damaging all the marine creatures in the area, including coral reefs.

Furthermore, Prof Thon also indicates that due to tourism a lot of plastic trash is dumped into the water. Plastic pollution affects corals, spreading all sorts of diseases and causing a lot of harm in the long run. Hence, water contamination reached to be one of the largest contributors to the degeneration of coral reefs in the country. Unfortunately, only 30% of polluted water undergoes the waste water treatment process.

Global warming and plastic pollution threaten coral reefs

Apart from that, coral reefs sediments from landfills located along coastal areas also have a terrible impact on the population of corals. Even if over the past 2-3 years Thailand did not experience problems with coral bleaching, there seem to be a lot of other factors which damage these species of marine creatures. Human-made pollution dramatically affects corals in Thailand. Apparently, the influx of tourists who visit the area is not properly handled.

Petch Manopawitr is a scientist of the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN. He highlighted the fact that plastic waste is the main cause of coral disease spreading. The accumulation of plastic trash in the sea dramatically affects the reefs. He indicates that Thailand was listed as the fourth country in the world among other countries which produce generate the biggest amount of marine waste.

This results from the assessment developed by the US-based non-profit marine conservation group, Ocean Conservancy in 2017. Manopawitr claims that in the Thai seas the accumulation of plastic waste slowly increases. The huge amount of plastic trash has impaired the health of corals. A new article published in Science magazine shows that coral reefs dramatically suffer since they digest plastic garbage.

Garbage and plastics in the ocean

Coral reefs are in danger due to human-made activities and plastic pollution.

Plastic trash pollutes seas, affecting the development of coral reefs

The research relies on the collaboration of Prince of Songka University, James Cook University and Cornell University. It shows that coral reefs can severely suffer due to plastic pollution. That research relied on the analysis of coral reefs from about 159 locations in Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Worapot Lomlim is the chief of Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park.

He indicates that the authorities continue to inspect the coral reefs situated around Koh Bida Nok in Krabi. Residents in the area have complained due to the fact that a group of Japanese tourists brought vinyl boards to the water. These materials might have caused damage to the coral life.

While global warming takes care of the bleaching events, plastic pollution spreads different diseases. Hence, the coral reefs have no time to recover. Water pollution and hot temperatures severely affects them. Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable now. Joleah Lamb from Cornell University is the lead author of the new study.

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He says that plastics turn into the perfect vessels for colonizing microscopic organisms. They can trigger several illnesses when they come into contact with corals. Different bacteria heavily inhabit several plastic items like toothbrushes and bottle caps. The diseases the bacteria can spread where associated with the common illnesses known as white syndromes.

The huge amount of plastic items carry many diseases

After analyzing the coral reefs from 159 locations between 2011 and 2014, researchers have found a streaking connection between plastic trash and coral reef diseases. Scientists argue that in the areas of the ocean without plastic debris, the likelihood of illness for coral reefs was of only 4%. However, when plastic came in contact with the corals, the likelihood of diseases has increased to 89%. This is the first study that shows the effects of plastic trash on coral reefs.

The lead author indicates that their work reveals that plastic pollution is dramatically affecting corals. Their main goal is to focus less on finding out how many species are dying and trying to find out more solutions to stop this. Drew Harvell is the co-author of the study. She indicates that the effects of global warming on coral reefs cannot disappear all of a sudden. They will gradually decrease as we diminish the overall effects of climate change.

Even if no researcher in the world can stop the impact of climate change now, at least the new study will determine policymakers to take measures and reduce plastic pollution. Specialists say that the amount of plastic varied from one area to another. In Australia, scientists found 0.4 plastic items in every 100 square meters of ocean area. On the other hand, in Indonesia, this number has increased to 25.6 square meters.

The estimations indicate that approximately 11 billion plastic items remain entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region. By 2015, these numbers can increase over 15 billion.

Summing up

Hence, the growing number of plastic debris will infect more and more coral reefs. The corals would suffer from black band disease, white syndromes, skeletal eroding band disease and many other illnesses. The impact of the huge amount of plastic items on coral reefs could have devastating consequences.

The new study sheds light not only on global warming but also on human-made activities and practices. Water pollution has a terrible effect on the life of coral reefs since plastic trash can carry around a lot of bacteria. These bacteria are able to spread numerous diseases, threatening the life of several coral species around the world.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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