By: Madalyn Wesner
Summary: Coral is currently under attack by plastic pollution. It is dying by the masses due to plastic bags, bottles, straws, and many other single-use every-day plastic items. Coral is a branch or mound that is made up of thousands of tiny polyps and is very much alive. They tend to form together and make some of the largest underwater structures in the world called Coral Reefs. The three biggest reefs in the world are the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, and the Florida Reef. Each of which are taking serious damage. Pollutants such as plastic bags are a major source and carriers for harmful bacteria. The plastic bags get caught on the coral and damage it. The plastics create open wounds and then expose them to the harmful bacteria causing them to get “sick” and eventually die out. Another source of harmful plastic is fishing gear. Fishing gear tends to be more solid than the plastic bags, and can cause significantly more physical damage to the reefs.
Polluting the reefs not only negatively effects the coral but it also negatively impacts marine life and humans as well. The animals that feed off of and live on these coral reefs are ingesting the thousands of different plastics. When humans eventually eat these animals, they are also consuming the plastic that was inside the animals.
How do we help? We help by cutting out single-use plastic items. Instead of using plastic grocery bags try to use a reusable one. Replace plastic straws with reusable metal ones. Replace plastic water bottles with refillable ones. If everyone in U.S. alone could make a conscious effort to try to make the switch to these three items, it could positively impact the reefs and the ocean as a whole. It is not too late to save them, but Reefs cannot be replaced once they are gone and to lose Coral Reefs would mean to lose a significant ecosystem.
Why we should care? I think we should care about the Coral Reefs because by damaging them we are damaging ourselves. Killing the reefs will kill a major human food source and a major contributor to marine life.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because it talks not only about the effects plastic has on coral reefs, but also carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures. Global warming is the cause of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is when corals release their algae due to a rise in temperature. Losing that algae causes them to die. Another point I found interesting is the fact that corals die under high stress. When temperatures change drastically in short periods of time the coral cannot handle the change and they die. The article also mentions the fact that most of the coral that thrives is out in the middle of the ocean away from humans. People have more of an impact than they know and creating awareness is the first step to fixing the problem.
Science in Action.
Dr. Eric Hochberg is a Reef Ecologist with a focus on the interaction between light and the function of tropical and subtropical shallow water ecosystems, or coral reefs. He is currently working on a NASA- funded research project called Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL).
Dr. Eric Hochberg uses new technologies to study the habits of coral reefs. He uses these new technologies to understand the process by which coral reefs die. Finding the root cause is the way to fixing and or saving the reefs. I believe his research is relevant to my blog topic because he is researching what things have a negative effect on the coral reefs. My blog talks about the negative impacts plastics have on them, and his research is all about finding what kills coral. He has written many scholarly articles on his findings and how he found them. His use of technology could be the next big step in saving such a significant ecosystem.