Plastic is damaging coral reefs

(Roderick Eime/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Water is a necessity, something that we cannot live without. It is important that we respect this natural source. Yet, even though people are aware of this concept, many people are throwing waste in the Earth’s waters. In turn, this damages the aquatic ecosystem, especially coral reefs.

Dr. Joleah Lamb decided to investigate this matter further. She noticed that when she lifted plastic from the water, corals would have disease because of plastic contamination. Due to this, Lamb’s team “analyzed more than 124,000 corals,” finding that “infections strike down 89 percent of corals that come into contact with plastic." This was observed in the four countries that were investigated: Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Lamb was surprised at how plastic is never mentioned as a threat to the aquatic ecosystem. In fact, when people think about damage to the aquatic ecosystem, the sources that come to mind include “rising temperatures, acidifying waters, overfishing, nutrient pollution, etc.” However, people never equate plastic as the source of problems in the aquatic ecosystem.

The plastic that damages the coral reefs also result in disruption of life for the fish in the aquatic ecosystem. The corals are identified as habitats for the fish. As a result, the presence of diseased corals results in greater contamination.

The plastic contamination appears to be a greater issue, but can we educate the public on how to care for the Earth, rather than neglect it? According to Lamb, this problem will continue to stay. Lamb and her team “estimated that around 15.7 billion pieces will be entangled in Asia-Pacific reefs."

It still remains unknown about how plastic can lead to disease in our Earth’s waters. One theory is that plastic has the tendency to cut the corals, which leaves greater room for the protozoans to invade the corals.

If we want to preserve our aquatic ecosystem, then it is imperative that the public is educated on the impact of contamination. A person may think that one plastic bag will not damage the Earth, but in reality, one plastic bag can cause great harm. We want to ensure that the environment where we live is as clean as possible, because no person wants to see the environment decay in the future.

How can we encourage people in the Asia-Pacific to change their habits? The first procedure that people can implement is to use less plastic. If this is done properly, then the spread of decay in the water is reduced. In addition, citizens should avoid littering wherever there is a source of water nearby. They should think about the impact of littering in the future. One wrapper can be picked up by the water in an instant.

Another option to implement in daily living are reusable produce bags. In fact, this option can be implemented wherever you are, because this can save the aquatic ecosystem, regardless of where you live. According to one report, “1 million plastic bags are used every minute.” If people purchase reusable produce bags, plastic will be kept away from Earth’s waters, reducing the impact of contamination.

Plastic is a major source of contamination. Although some form of contamination is typically present, people can do their part by changing their habits for the welfare of the planet. If they change their habits, then we can protect the aquatic ecosystem, resulting in less damage to the coral reefs and the animals that depend on the Earth’s waters.


Anusha Kumar is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at anusha.kumar@uconn.edu.