Plastic pollution increases risk of devastating disease in corals | Science News

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Plastic pollution increases risk of devastating disease in corals

More than 11 billion pieces of the long-lived pollutant litter Asia-Pacific reefs

5:00pm, January 25, 2018
sick corals

DON’T DO IT  A plastic-based, polyester towel is caught on diseased corals, which have turned white. Known to harbor pathogenic bacteria, plastic is increasing the risk of disease at scores of reefs.

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Coral reefs are sick of plastic.

More than 11 billion plastic objects are polluting Asia-Pacific coral reefs, a new estimate finds. This waste can harbor pathogenic bacteria known to make corals sick. Reefs littered with plastic were at least 20 times as likely to have diseased corals as unpolluted reefs, researchers say. 

Corals succumbing to disease can throw ocean ecosystems out of whack. When corals die, they break down, robbing underwater organisms of their reef habitats. Based on current trends, the amount of plastic trapped in Asia-Pacific reefs is projected to increase 40 percent by 2025, further endangering corals, scientists report in the Jan. 26 Science.

“Plastic has pits and pores. It’s the perfect vessel for microbes to colonize,” says Joleah Lamb, a marine biologist at Cornell University. If these

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