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Coral Reef Plastic

January 29, 2018

Plastic garbage triggers disease in coral reefs.



Sick corals. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Coral reefs are endangered around the world due to human activity. Now, a study suggests that one major threat comes from plastic trash, which promotes disease in these sensitive ecosystems. Cornell ecologist Joleah Lamb says when plastic comes in contact with coral, it forms a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria by starving the coral of sunlight and oxygen.

JOLEAH LAMB (Cornell University):

Plastics can be these really wonderful marine motorhomes for microbes. And when that comes into contact with the coral, they can get infected.


Lamb’s team reports in Science magazine that in the Asia-Pacific region, 89% of corals that touched plastic were diseased. While plastic pollution continues to increase, Lamb says the good news is that by improving their plastic waste management policies, countries could dramatically reduce coral disease outbreaks. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard