Ocean plastic waste is making coral reefs vulnerable to disease

The masses of plastic in the world's oceans are having a harmful effect on coral reefs, which are already suffering under the effects of over-fishing and increased water temperatures. According to a new study published in Science, the presence of plastic waste increases diseases among corals from about 4-percent to 89-percent.

Sadly, plastic waste, including bags, straws, small toys, fast food packaging, bottles, and more, comprise a massive problem for the environment. Floating "islands" of plastic pollution have been found in the oceans; even remote areas have been found with some level of plastic junk floating around.

More than 11 billion pieces of plastic are estimated to be caught on coral reefs in Asia-Pacific, according to the study. That figure could increase 40-percent over the next several years if something isn't done.

Plastic trash can carry harmful microbes to coral reefs, which are also damaged when the plastics collide with them. Coral is especially vulnerable if cut by plastic covered in harmful microbes. Though the study looked at more than a hundred reefs located throughout Asia-Pacific, the same effects may exist on reefs located elsewhere in the world.

This isn't a problem without a solution, however. Researchers noted that Australia had the least amount of plastic of the surveyed regions, while Indonesia had the greatest amount. Among those areas, Australia has the greatest waste controls in place, indicating that other regions may see similar improvements if they implement similar controls.

SOURCE: Reuters