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Science. 2018 Jan 26;359(6374):460-462. doi: 10.1126/science.aar3320.

Plastic waste associated with disease on coral reefs.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. joleah.lamb@cornell.edu.
2
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.
3
College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
4
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
5
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
6
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA.
7
Ecosystem Sciences Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA.
8
Marine Programme, Fauna & Flora International, Yangon, Myanmar.
9
Oceans Program, Environmental Defense Fund, New York, NY 10010, USA.
10
Center for Biodiversity in Peninsular Thailand, Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Songkhla, Thailand.
11
Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
12
The Nature Conservancy, Raja Ampat Field Office, North Sorong, West Papua, Indonesia.
13
Faculty of Marine Science and Fisheries, Hasanuddin University, Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Abstract

Plastic waste can promote microbial colonization by pathogens implicated in outbreaks of disease in the ocean. We assessed the influence of plastic waste on disease risk in 124,000 reef-building corals from 159 reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. The likelihood of disease increases from 4% to 89% when corals are in contact with plastic. Structurally complex corals are eight times more likely to be affected by plastic, suggesting that microhabitats for reef-associated organisms and valuable fisheries will be disproportionately affected. Plastic levels on coral reefs correspond to estimates of terrestrial mismanaged plastic waste entering the ocean. We estimate that 11.1 billion plastic items are entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific and project this number to increase 40% by 2025. Plastic waste management is critical for reducing diseases that threaten ecosystem health and human livelihoods.

PMID:
29371469
DOI:
10.1126/science.aar3320
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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