Microplastic contamination on coral reef ecosystems around lizard island, great barrier reef, australia

, Santana Marina, Motti Cherie, Van Herwerden Lynne, Kroon Frederieke.

The coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) are experiencing significant anthropogenic pressures, including climate change and poor water quality associated with land-based runoff. Marine debris, and in particular microplastic pollution, has recently gained increasing attention as an additional anthropogenic threat to the marine ecosystems of the GBRWHA. Here, we provide a baseline of microplastic contamination on coral reef ecosystems at the remote Lizard Island Marine National Park in the far northern GBRWHA, approximately 250 km north from the nearest urban centre (Cairns). Microplastic contamination was characterized and quantified in seawater and sediment samples, and in coral reef organisms such as hard corals, sponges, sea cucumbers, sea squirts and fish. Putative microplastics were detected in all samples, and their polymer type confirmed using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Preliminary analyses confirm the presence of secondary microplastic fibres and particles comprising a diverse range of polymer types and sizes, particularly in the water column. Using these results, we have established the first baseline of microplastic contamination on coral reef ecosystems around Lizard Island, which will inform future studies to examine the ecological risks of microplastic contamination on GBRWHA coral reefs and indeed globally.

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