You and Your CourseOpportunities
Research and Teaching
Our ResearchResearch Degrees
Partners and Community
Partner with JCU
- About JCUPartner with JCU
- Careers and Employability
- College of Healthcare Sciences
- College of Medicine and Dentistry
- Division of Tropical Environments and Societies
- International Students
- JCU Eduquarium
- Open Day
- Parents and Partners
- Pathways to University
- JCU Connect
- Scholarships @ JCU
- Media & Comms
- Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine
- About JCU
Featured News Great Barrier Reef corals eat plastic
Great Barrier Reef corals eat plastic
Great Barrier Reef corals eat plastic
Corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Image: Mia Hoogenboom
Researchers have found that corals commonly found on the Great Barrier Reef will eat microplastic pollution.
“Corals are non-selective feeders and our results show that they can consume microplastics when the plastics are present in seawater,” says Dr Mia Hoogenboom, a Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.
“If microplastic pollution increases on the Great Barrier Reef, corals could be negatively affected as their tiny stomach cavities become full of indigestible plastic,” Dr Hoogenboom says.
Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic in the environment and are a widespread contaminant in marine ecosystems, particularly in inshore coral reefs.
Despite the proliferation of microplastics, their impact on marine ecosystems is poorly understood.
“Marine plastic pollution is a global problem and microplastics can have negative effects on the health of marine organisms,” says Dr Hoogenboom.
“We aimed to determine whether corals from inshore coral reefs consume microplastics, and whether there is potential for plastic pollution to affect coral reefs.”
As part of the study the researchers put corals collected from the Great Barrier Reef into plastic contaminated water.
After two nights they found that the corals had eaten plastic particles.
“Corals get energy from photosynthesis by symbiotic algae living within their tissues, but they also feed on a variety of other food including zooplankton, sediment and other microscopic organisms that live in seawater,” says study lead author Nora Hall, a James Cook University Masters graduate.
“We found that the corals ate plastic at rates only slightly lower than their normal rate of feeding on marine plankton,” she says.
The plastic was found deep inside the coral polyp wrapped in digestive tissue, raising concerns that it might impede the corals ability to digest its normal food.
The team also sampled the waters adjacent to inshore coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef.
“During this testing we found microplastics, including polystyrene and polyethylene, although only in small amounts,” says study co-author, Kathryn Berry, a PhD student at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The researchers say the next step is to determine the impact plastic has on coral physiology and health, as well as its impact on other marine organisms.
“We are also investigating whether fish on coral reefs eat plastics, and whether plastic consumption influences fish growth and survival,” Dr Hoogenboom says.
Microplastic ingestion by scleractinian corals by N.M. Hall, K.L.E. Berry, L. Rintoul, M.O. Hoogenboom is published in the journal Marine Biology.
Dr Mia Hoogenboom, +61 (0) 7 4781 5937, email@example.com
Eleanor Gregory – Coral CoE Media, +61 (0) 428 785 895, firstname.lastname@example.org
- James Cook University
- Bachelor of Advanced Science
- Bachelor of Arts
- Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences
- Bachelor of Business
- Bachelor of Business / Laws
- Bachelor of Business & Environmental Science
- Bachelor of Dental Surgery
- Bachelor of Early Childhood Education
- Bachelor of Primary Education
- Bachelor of Secondary Education
- Bachelor of Environmental Practice
- Bachelor of Geology
- Bachelor of Information Technology
- Bachelor of Laws
- Bachelor of Nursing Science (External)
- Bachelor of Midwifery
- Bachelor of Pharmacy
- Bachelor of Physiotherapy
- Bachelor of Planning
- Bachelor of Psychological Science
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Social Work
- Bachelor of Speech Pathology
- Bachelor of Sport & Exercise Science
- Bachelor of Veterinary Science
- Bachelor of Clinical Sciences (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
- Bachelor of Engineering / Science (Honours) MBA in Tourism
- Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
- Master of Data Science
- Bachelor of Sports Psychology
- Bachelor of Marine Science
- Bachelor of Medicine / Surgery
- Bachelor of Nursing Science [Pre-Registration]
- Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (Honours)
- Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours)
- Bachelor of Psychology
- Master of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Graduate Certificate of Conflict Management & Resolution
- Master of Global Development
- Master of International Tourism & Hospitality Management
- Bachelor of Technology and Innovation
- Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Laws
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Diploma of Higher Education (Business)
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Business Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Engineering and Applied Science
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in General Studies
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Health
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Information Technology
- Diploma of Higher Education Majoring in Science
- Diploma of Higher Education, Majoring in Society and Culture