Plastic pollution on the world's coral reefs

Pinheiro, Hudson T., MacDonald, Chancey, Santos, Robson, Ali, Ramadhoine, Bobat, Ayesha, Cresswell, Benjamin J., Francini-Filho, Ronaldo, Freitas, Rui, Galbraith, Gemma F., Musembi, Peter, Phelps, Tyler A., Quimbayo, Juan P., Quiros, T.E. Angela L., Shepherd, Bart, Stefanoudis, Paris V., Talma, Sheena, Teixeira, João B., Woodall, Lucy C., and Rocha, Luiz A. (2023) Plastic pollution on the world's coral reefs. Nature, 619 (7969). pp. 311-316.

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Coral reefs are losing the capacity to sustain their biological functions. In addition to other well-known stressors, such as climatic change and overfishing1, plastic pollution is an emerging threat to coral reefs, spreading throughout reef food webs2, and increasing disease transmission and structural damage to reef organisms3. Although recognized as a global concern4, the distribution and quantity of plastics trapped in the world's coral reefs remains uncertain3. Here we survey 84 shallow and deep coral ecosystems at 25 locations across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian ocean basins for anthropogenic macrodebris (pollution by human-generated objects larger than 5 centimetres, including plastics), performing 1,231 transects. Our results show anthropogenic debris in 77 out of the 84 reefs surveyed, including in some of Earth's most remote and near-pristine reefs, such as in uninhabited central Pacific atolls. Macroplastics represent 88% of the anthropogenic debris, and, like other debris types, peak in deeper reefs (mesophotic zones at 30-150 metres depth), with fishing activities as the main source of plastics in most areas. These findings contrast with the global pattern observed in other nearshore marine ecosystems, where macroplastic densities decrease with depth and are dominated by consumer items5. As the world moves towards a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution6, understanding its distribution and drivers provides key information to help to design the strategies needed to address this ubiquitous threat.

Item ID: 79483
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1476-4687
Copyright Information: © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2023.
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2023 03:07
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4105 Pollution and contamination > 410599 Pollution and contamination not elsewhere classified @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 10%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 10%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 50%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280111 Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences @ 50%
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