Microplastics: impacts on corals and other reef organisms
Plastic pollution in a growing problem globally. In addition to the continuous flow of plastic particles to the environment from direct sources, and through the natural wear and tear of items, the plastics that are already there have the potential to breakdown further and therefore provide an immense source of plastic particles. With the continued rise in levels of plastic production, and consequently increasing levels entering our marine environments it is imperative that we understand its impacts. There is evidence microplastic and nanoplastic (MNP) pose a serious threat to all the world's marine ecosystems and biota, across all taxa and trophic levels, having individual- to ecosystem-level impacts, although these impacts are not fully understood. Microplastics (MPs; 0.1–5 mm) have been consistently found associated with the biota, water and sediments of all coral reefs studied, but due to limitations in the current techniques, a knowledge gap exists for the level of nanoplastic (NP; <1 µm). This is of particular concern as it is this size fraction that is thought to pose the greatest risk due to their ability to translocate into different organs and across cell membranes. Furthermore, few studies have examined the interactions of MNP exposure and other anthropogenic stressors such as ocean acidification and rising temperature. To support the decision-making required to protect these ecosystems, an advancement in standardised methods for the assessment of both MP and NPs is essential. This knowledge, and that of predicted levels can then be used to determine potential impacts more accurately.