Microplastics in the Coral Reef Systems from Xisha Islands of South China Sea.Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Jul 16; 53(14):8036-8046.ES
The impacts of microplastics on coral reefs are gaining attention due to findings that microplastics affect coral health. This work investigated the distribution and characteristics of microplastics in the seawater, fish, and corals in 3 atolls from the Xisha Islands of South China Sea. In the seawater samples, microplastics were detected in the outer reef slopes, reef flats, and lagoons with abundances ranging from 0.2 to 11.2, 1.0 to 12.2, and 1.0 to 45.2 items L-1, respectively. Microplastic abundance was 0-12.0 items individual-1 (0-4.7 items g-1) in fish and 1.0-44.0 items individual-1(0.02-1.3 items g-1) in coral. The predominant shape and polymer of microplastics in seawater, fish, and coral were fibrous rayon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Microplastic sizes primarily ranged from 20-330 μm in both the seawater and fish, while there were relatively more 1-5 mm microplastics in the corals. The shape, size, color, and polymer type distribution patterns of microplastics in seawater more closely resembled those in fish gills than those in fish gastrointestinal tracts or coral samples. This study shows that microplastics are abundant in these coral reef systems and they are captured by fish or "trapped" by corals.