Adhesion to coral surface as a potential sink for marine microplastics.Environ Pollut. 2019 Dec; 255(Pt 2):113281.EP
Only 1% of plastic entering the ocean is found floating on its surface, with high loads in ocean accumulation zones and semi-enclosed seas, except for the Red Sea, which supports one of the lowest floating plastic loads worldwide. Given the extension of reefs in the Red Sea, we hypothesize a major role of scleractinian corals as sinks, through suspension-feeding, and assessed microplastic removal rates by three Red Sea coral species. Experimental evidence showed removal rates ranging from 0.25 × 10-3 to 14.8 × 10-3 microplastic particles polyp-1 hour-1, among species. However, this was only 2.2 ± 0.6% of the total removal rate, with passive removal through adhesion to the coral surface being 40 times higher than active removal through suspension-feeding. These results point at adhesion of plastic to coral reef structures as a major sink for microplastics suspended in the water column after sinking, helping explain low concentrations in Red Sea surface waters.