Meanwhile, some coral reefs covered with black plastic for just one day will greatly affect their health. Proposal to mitigate the effects of the beef industry on global warming, Recommendations for Improving the Delisting of Species under the Endangered Species Act, Roads and Amphibians: An Issue in Conservation and Policy. Companies such as GreenVetsLA have created a number of jobs in the economy focused on the production of reusable bags created from scrap fabric of the fashion industry, while also employing USA veterans (Hickman, 2013). Reusable bags allow consumers to reduce their plastic consumption, since just a handful of bags can serve an entire household in all their shopping needs. When including all of the connecting rivers, a total of 31 states and two Canadian provinces drain into the Mississippi River (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2016, para. Reusable Bags. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/loopcurrent.html, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Impacts from land-based sources of pollution—including coastal development, deforestation, agricultural runoff, and oil and chemical spills—can impede coral growth and reproduction, disrupt overall ecological function, and cause disease and mortality in sensitive species. In a bag ban situation, customers bring their own reusable bags, so stores do not need to ship enormous amounts of cloth bags to their store beyond the small amounts offered for sale (Bell & Cave, 2011). Rwanda adopts draft law to ban single-use plastics. The study looked at 159 different reefs in the Asia-Pacific region over four years. 31-33). It is well known that marine plastic pollution harms ocean life, including many species found … The scientists have some theories around why plastic-contaminated reefs might be more likely to get sick. (2013). Despite how remote Midway is, it is covered in plastic and often referred to as a “plastic island” (CNN, 2016).. Required fields are marked *. The amount of CO2 generated through bag production is 2.5 billion kilograms, which is the amount of CO2 produced by 500,000 passenger cars in a year. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62 (8), 1693-1701. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.06.003, Rohrer, J. How to Become an Environmental Role Model for your Guests. Structurally complex corals – such as staghorn coral and other types of branching coral – are eight times more likely to trap plastics within their structures. Compared to a Cleanup Day in 2010, before the ban, 65,736 bags were collected (Ocean Conservancy, 2017) This represents a reduction of 83% in the amount of plastic bag litter that was picked up off the coasts of California. Senior author Drew Harvell at Cornell University explained: “It’s certainly well known that plastics abrade corals, create new openings. Nobody used this plastic at Midway or brought it there directly (CNN, 2016).. All of the accumulated plastic on Midway originates from Asia and North America where people disposed of it and it got carried through river systems and discharged into the ocean (CNN, 2016). (2019, February 2). The plastics carry these microbes with them through the aquatic environment and can end up settling in ecosystems such as coral reefs. The United States and its territories are home to several coral reef systems in Florida, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, and the Garden Flower Banks offshore of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2018, para. Plastic has a range of negative effects on coral reefs. The new Green Fins posters help divers and dive operators alike take small steps to reducing their intake of single-use plastics. Although researchers have found a correlation, they're still working on pinpointing precisely how the plastics cause the coral reefs to get sick. (2009) Plastic bags and plastic bottles – CO2 emissions during their lifetime. Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6374), 460–462. Ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 levels produced largely by the burning of fossil fuels, as used in plastic production, is dissolving our reefs little by little, leaving them damaged and exposed. In this way, plastic pollution poses an even greater threat to coral reefs because plastics are the perfect surface for disease causing microbes to attach to. The plastics carry these microbes with them through the aquatic environment and can end up settling in ecosystems such as coral reefs. There’s a lot of talk about the harm these plastics are doing to the oceans generally… but what about coral reefs, specifically? Coral reefs are under threat from billions of pieces of plastic. . The Mississippi River flows through ten states before draining into the Gulf of Mexico. Rwanda had a very positive result from their ban, but issues with stakeholders, and lack of alternatives and enforcement were major struggles for the nation. With the average American needing more than 300 shopping bags per year, cloth bags can easily outpace plastic in a short amount of time. The amount of these bags being produced is staggering. Plastic corporations are diversified enough to withstand single-use plastic bans and have the adaptive capabilities to adjust their market and production with a national ban. Single-use plastic production releases chemicals that damage corals and the plastics themselves cause disease and physical harm to corals. We need to change our behaviour and improve our waste management processes to a level that prevents plastic getting into the oceans or risk losing the very thing that gives us life. (2009). Lamb et al. The argument requires the assumptions that money not spent producing plastics is lost completely, and money spent pursuing the alternatives is a total waste. The US, thanks to a well-functioning waste management system, only mismanages 2% of its plastic waste. In a study of 338 corals exposed to the plastic fishing gear, 226 of them, or 69% , were physically damaged (p .1110) Of the 226 damaged corals, 62% of them had fresh tissue loss, which is similar to a wound on human skin (p. 1111). The more spikey the coral species, the more likely they were to snag plastic. coral in the Florida Reef, leaving a graveyard of skeletons in its wake (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2018, p. 1). Law, K. (2015). These are two things which corals need to survive. They also take up more space while shipping and therefore cause more carbon emissions during transport as compared to plastic bags (Bell & Cave, 2011). Ocean acidification is when atmospheric CO, , like that released from plastic production, combines with water molecules to form carbonic acid and subsequently lowers the pH of the ocean water. Nutrient pollution and ocean warming negatively affect early life of corals. Earth911. Another concern over banning plastic bags is that non-reusable replacements such as paper bags and biodegradable bags have a larger carbon footprint than plastic bags, meaning that they cause the release of more CO. during production and transport. (2016, November). Retrieved from https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/2456-2456-ekxxsk/index.html, National Conference of State Legislatures. While cloth bags also have a production cost; fabric needs to be made etc. But because of the sheer amount of plastic trash generated by the average American, 2.58 kg per day, the tiny amount of mismanagement adds up to a large amount of garbage entering marine environments. Can I recycle plastic bags in the curbside recycling bin? This is because these types of coral – whose elaborate structures provide lots of hiding places for juvenile fish – are usually important nursery habitats. Estimates of plastic pollution entering the ocean in the United States alone range from 40,000 to 110,000 metric tons each year (Jambeck et al., 2015, p. 769). How does plastic affect coral reefs? There are some economic arguments against plastic bag bans, but alternatives to plastic bags like bags made of cotton, canvas, jute and even woven baskets are all readily available and are much safer for coral reefs (Evans, 2018, para. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, there are around 11.1 BILLION plastic items entangled on coral reefs. (2019, February 13). Plastic companies have such a high demand to meet that their production factories are constantly running to produce product. The scientists have some theories around why plastic-contaminated reefs might be more likely to get sick. Billions of pieces of plastic pollution are snagged on coral reefs, sending disease rates soaring, new research has revealed. These diseases are not just damaging to the corals, they are fatal and cause rapid death in coral reefs. If plastic companies are favored over coral reefs then, the economy stands to lose the $9.6 billion that activities related to coral reefs produce (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, para. ; most cloth bags are already made of repurposed bags and recycled fabrics (Bell & Cave, 2011). 5). Retrieved from https://earth911.com/home-garden/360-reusable-bags/, Schmidt, C., Krauth, T., & Wagner, S. (2017) Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea. The plastic bag ban will take a big step towards stemming the damage done to coral, but this proposal will not be popular with the public unless there are viable alternatives to cover the gap. Plastics travel extremely far from where they are initially deposited wreak havoc on corals by damaging them and introducing disease (NOAA, 2013). Marine debris such as lost and abandoned plastic fishing gear has been well documented as causing physical damage to corals. This will effectively stop the use of plastic bags and therefore prevent any more of them from entering the ocean via the U.S.. White syndromes peel the tissue straight from the coral skeleton, working upward from the base, white syndrome has killed 95% of acropora coral in the Florida Reef, leaving a graveyard of skeletons in its wake (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2018, p. 1). The plastic could be making the corals sick because of a variety of reasons, Lamb tells The Verge. Coral reefs are formed by tiny animals that live in association with microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. This may seem like a miniscule amount but means life or death for sensitive species like corals that rely heavily on the ocean’s chemical properties; the increasing acidification of Earth’s oceans inhibits the ability of coral to build up their calcium structure by lowering the availability of carbonate ions, a necessary component of the calcium skeleton (, level in the water can reduce the growth of coral through calcification by up to 40% (, . Plastic companies have such a high demand to meet that their production factories are constantly running to produce product. in November of 2016, California enacted a ban that prohibits most grocery, retail, and convenience stores from offering customers plastic bags that are designed for a single use (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, 2018, para. Yet, even our behaviour at home can help protect coral reefs from harm. Comparison of Environmental Impact of Plastic, Paper and Cloth Bags. Plastic Bag Bans: Analysis of Economic and Environmental Impacts. California Coastal Cleanup Day – Litter Data Summary 2010 – 2017 [PDF file]. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/11/30/midway-plastic-island-nick-paton-walsh-orig-jql.cnn/video/playlists/pluto-tv-long-form-content/, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. What are the consequences if we throw away plastic waste, and what is the effect on coral reefs? . Plastic Waste Associated With Disease on Coral Reefs. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/plastic-bag-legislation.aspx, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With the average American needing more than 300 shopping bags per year, cloth bags can easily outpace plastic in a short amount of time. I’d really like to stick around and read more articles but it is to bad that I need to go do homework. 8, American Chemistry Council, 2015, para. Fish and Wildlife Service who stay on the island to protect and monitor its wildlife (Britannica, 2016 ) (Cable News Network [CNN], 2016). Black band disease moves across the surface of a coral systematically killing it, leaving a barren white skeleton in its wake, completely wiping out a colony of coral in just months (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2018). The Florida Reef is the third largest barrier reef in the world and has been in decline for the last four decades due to disease, pollution, and rising ocean temperatures (EPA, 2018, para. Single-use plastics need comprehensive federal legislation. All rights reserved. Retrieved from https://timeforchange.org/plastic-bags-and-plastic-bottles-CO2-emissions, Ruiz, A. In response to this decreased ability to grow, corals reduce the density of their calcified structure, but this leaves them extremely susceptible to erosion (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007 p. 2).They also divest more of their energy into producing more calcified structure; however this takes energy away from other processes including reproduction and a lower reproduction rate is detrimental to an already decreasing population (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007 p. 2). Cambridge Businesses, Residents, and Local Organizations Come Together to Make Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Ordinance a Success. I don’t believe that the coral reefs of the world can take much more pressure and while temperature change is inevitable, the ridiculous path of plastic waste from consumer to the oceans is not. After damaging the coral they expose the coral reefs to the microbes. Since 1980, pH measurements of ocean water have dropped by about .02 units per decade, making our oceans have the same acidity as baking soda (Doney et al, 2009, p. 1). Course Blog of Junior Year Writing in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A study showed that ten major rivers contribute to the majority of trash in the ocean. Plastic Bag Recycling and Manufacturing Supports Thousands of Jobs. These are two things which corals need to survive. What is the Loop Current? Ocean currents carried these plastics thousands of miles to the Midway islands and through the coral reefs that surround them. This is a worry when it comes to marine biodiversity. Plastic bags that are extremely prevalent in our oceans are made out of this same material. Plastic bag bans have already been implemented in other parts of the world, as has the distribution of reusable bags. These conflicts could have completely unraveled the whole project. But what about plastic? Many scientists now believe the very existence of coral reefs may be in jeopardy unless we intensify our efforts to protect them (Frieler et al. Not only do the abrasions physically damage coral structures, but the wounds can facilitate the invasion of pathogens (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 462). A cloth bag must be used 171 times (Bell & Cave, 2011, p. 6) to equal out the environmental impact of a plastic bag, but a well-made and cared for cloth bag is easily reused that many times. 2018) which explores what threat plastic pollution poses coral reefs. The Importance of Coral Reefs. (2018). noise pollution and coral reefs Noise Pollution does not only affect the colossal whales; the effects of excessive sound reach the oceans smaller creatures, living in coral reefs, as well. In order to understand why plastic bags in particular are a likely source for marine debris, it is important to know how plastic bags are handled by recycling systems. California is proof of not only the feasibility of plastic bag bans, but also of their effectiveness. Switching to reusable bags and eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags in the United States prevents any further pollution of coral reefs by plastic bags. These little things do matter.”. This tissue loss was caused by the gear abrading the coral as the water pushed it across and around the coral. In the Coral Reefs 2 – Biotic Factors lesson, you will explore how these factors affect coral reefs. surveyed 159 coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region. The effectiveness was apparent almost immediately. This tissue loss was caused by the gear abrading the coral as the water pushed it across and around the coral. State plastic and paper bag legislation. The United States already has examples of plastic bag regulation that have been adopted at the state level. Mar 27, 2018. Science, 347(6223), 768-771. doi:10.1126/science.1260352, Lamb, J. It’s a stark reminder that, even if you live nowhere near a coral reef, your plastic waste could wash up on a remote shore and harm the marine life there. Each use of a reusable bag lowers its ecological footprint, and well-cared for bags can last for years. Coral reefs are already susceptible to many other threats, such as the effects of climate change. Environmental Science & Technology 51 (21), 12246-12253 doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b02368, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. . A study shows that overall likelihood of disease in corals increases from 4% instance of disease in reefs without plastic to 89% in the presence of plastic debris (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 460). To quote the UN: “Researchers observed coral were not simply mistaking the small plastic particles for food; they were displaying a deliberate feeding response when the plastic floated by. © 2020 Debating Science. Other arguments against plastic bans are largely economic. I will come back and visit on my next research project! A cloth bag must be used 171 times (Bell & Cave, 2011, p. 6) to equal out the environmental impact of a plastic bag, but a well-made and cared for cloth bag is easily reused that many times. Hawaii alone houses 60%, over 140,000 acres, of the United States’ coral reefs and is estimated to be worth over $9 billion and contribute several hundred millions of dollars to the economy per year. This may seem like a miniscule amount but means life or death for sensitive species like corals that rely heavily on the ocean’s chemical properties; the increasing acidification of Earth’s oceans inhibits the ability of coral to build up their calcium structure by lowering the availability of carbonate ions, a necessary component of the calcium skeleton (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007, p. 1). (2018). Mar 04, 2020. Retrieved April, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Midway-Islands, Cable News Network (CNN). (2017). A study shows that overall likelihood of disease in corals increases from 4% instance of disease in reefs without plastic to 89% in the presence of plastic debris (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 460). The majority of the fishing gear in this study (over 95% of it) was made of plastic, non-biodegradable material (p. 1109). Retrieved from https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/single-use-plastics-roadmap-sustainability, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. White syndromes peel the tissue straight from the coral skeleton, working upward from the base, white syndrome has killed 95% of. We’ve all seen the photos of supermarket shopping bags littering marine environments many miles away. These assumptions are not true; for example, money diverted from plastic manufacturing could be used to stimulate new production of biodegradable alternatives. Coral reefs get sick from plastic ... climate change and other pollution. They form when filter-feeding polyps create exoskeletons of calcium carbonate, a type of limestone. Once entangled in the reefs, these plastics wreak havoc. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54d3a62be4b068e9347ca880/t/5a0237d7652deae895d2df1c/1510094808473/California+Coastal+Cleanup+Data+2010.2016.2017.pdf, Richards, Z., & Beger, M. (2011). In Cambridge, single use plastic bags have been banned. (2017). A nationwide ban against plastic bags in the United States, with a plan to eventually ban the top ten single-use plastics, will improve the health and well being of coral reefs. An estimated 103 billion plastic bags are used by Americans each year which works out to roughly 319 bags per person (Wagner, 2017 p. 4). Plastic is also thought to promote the growth of harmful pathogens and transport these into coral reefs. Lamb told the guardian the one hopeful aspect of the plastic pollution problem was that people can take direct action: “The take-home message for individuals is to be more considered about the amount of single-use plastics you are using and think about where your plastic goes. The US, thanks to a well-functioning waste management system, only mismanages 2% of its plastic waste. “The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic,” researchers reported in the journal Science. When sediment and other pollutants enter the water, they smother coral reefs, speed the … To put the amount of plastic waste being generated into perspective, consider just one of the most ubiquitous single-use plastic items in an American’s life; the plastic shopping bag. A study conducted in Australia* has shown that coral polyps will catch and ingest plastic particles. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Just a handful of reusable fabric bags can do the job of all of the plastic shopping bags a person uses once then throws away. American Chemistry Council. Most curbside recycling programs do not allow plastic bags for this reason, and as a result the recycling rate of all of these plastic bags is only 12.3% (Wagner, 2017, p. 4). Chicago Tribune. 3), and about ⅓ of that is absorbed into the ocean when released (Doney, Fabry, Feely, Kleypas, 2009, pg 16). Retrieved from https://www.bagtheban.com/learn-the-facts/jobs-and-economy/, Ballesteros, L., Matthews, J., & Hoeksema, B. pollution edit: Fishing and tourism can also affect coral reefs. New research published on January 25 in Science estimates the amount of plastic in coral reefs and the effect this pollution has on reef health. It won’t come as a surprise to you that plastics are terrible for the ocean environment. Coral reefs provide vital fisheries and coastal defense, and they urgently need protection from the damaging effects of plastic waste. Physical damage is caused to corals by marine debris that gets entangled in coral reefs. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/reusable_bags.html, Hickman, B. Firstly, plastic can block light and oxygen from reaching the coral. Bacteria is abundant in the water and when the coral is abraded, pathogens might be able to enter the coral. (n.d.). According to the UN Environment, between 60% and 80% of the trash in the ocean is plastic. Midway, a plastic island. These diseases are not just damaging to the corals, they are fatal and cause rapid death in coral reefs. Midway is extremely remote as it is 1,300 miles from the nearest city, Honolulu, Hawaii, and is only inhabited by 40 members of the U.S. Harvell, C. D. (2018). Even remote reef … The absorption of CO2 into the ocean has resulted in ocean acidification. The effect on the lower class and elderly was taken into account and the city worked to solve the issue surrounding the accessibility of reusable bags for elderly and low income families by collecting and distributing over 8000 bags to families and individuals who needed them (Cambridge Department of Public Works, 2016). It found that in waters where they saw high amounts of plastic, the coral didn’t seem to be healthy. In the short term, production cost of reusable bags may lead to higher carbon emissions, the long term effect of reducing plastic usage will offset the initial harm and help save coral from effects of plastic entanglement from debris that never fully breaks down and hangs around killing for decades. 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