Plastic waste in the oceans is linked to disease in coral reefs

Millions of tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, and many of these end up entangling on coral reefs. Microbes that live on the plastic can then cause coral diseases. A new study appearing in Science today examined more than 100,000 individual corals, finding that only 4% of corals have disease when they are plastic free, but a staggering 89% of corals that are in contact with plastics are diseased. There is an urgent need to reduce the amount of plastics discarded into the oceans each year, but instead the amounts are projected to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025, with alarming possible effects on coral reefs around the world. The research was conducted by an international team led by Joleah Lamb of Cornell University, including SAFS MS student Evan Fiorenza.

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