Adhesion to coral surface as a potential sink for marine microplastics.

Cecilia Martin, Elena Corona, Gauri A Mahadik, Carlos M. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


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.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113281
JournalEnvironmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)
StatePublished - Sep 21 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported and funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) through the baseline funding of CMD. We thank the Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab staff for assistance during operations at the aquaria facilities, Katherine Rowe for support during field-work, Ruben Díaz-Rúa for help during lab operations, Andrea Anton for the useful suggestions, Fadiyah M. Baalkhuyur for help during lab analyses and Marco Fusi for help during data analyses.


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