Description of possible sources of plastic waste that can reach the Great Barrier Reef
Plastic waste plays a major role in the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef. Plastics of all kind have ended up in the coral reef through industrial leakage, fishing, littering etc. Industrial leakage is one of the many ways plastic has ended up in the reef, this occurs when a large company or shipment that has spilt plastic material into the reef. Fishing is another way in which plastic has entered the reef. Fishermen have plastic wires/ strings that may snap while fishing, and due to this, plastic ends up in the Great Barrier Reef. One of the most common ways plastic finds its way into the reef is through public littering, it is most likely responsible for the degradation of this unique coral cay. The main sources of plastic which enter the Great barrier reef include low density polyethylene (plastic bags) as well as polyethylene terephthalate (water bottles). However, many other types of plastics enter this natural wonder. This includes polyvinyl chloride (cling wrap) and high-density polyethylene (shampoo bottle). All of this plastic endangers the species in the Great Barrier Reef as it may imperil the wildlife and poison flora.
Identify 6 organisms found in the GBR that could be affected by plastic waste
Coral is a vital organism found within the Great Barrier Reef as it houses over 1500 species of fish and over 134 species of sharks and rays.
Algae is another significant organism as it is one of the largest sources of food in the Great Barrier Reef feeding coral, fish, and other omnivores.
Marine turtles have also been affected by plastic as they are a species which are endangered due to the pollution of plastic waste in the coral reef.
Sharks are another organism which has been negatively impacted by plastics through the use of plastic fishing nets which trap and may even kill the shark.
Sea birds are another organism which has been affected by plastics, as the plastic smells like fish and due to this they ingest the plastic.
Small fish are another fundamental organism which has been influenced by the plastic as they too also ingest the microplastic and often die.
Explanation of how plastic waste affects organisms listed under subheading two
Plastic waste has created a detrimental effect on the coral reefs of Australia. Killing the high order consumers (sharks) all the way down to the producers (coral) and low order consumers (fish). Sharks have been impacted by the introduction of plastic waste as the break down of plastics results is microplastics which is still potentially toxic. As the shark moves around, they unintentionally ingest the plastics and hence, gets poisoned which in some cases, lead to death. Marine turtles also get affected as they get tangled in plastic nets. The turtles also mistaken plastic bags as jellyfish and because of this, they consume the plastic, which normally leads to death without medical treatment. Sea birds are another organism which have been negatively impacted. This is because they constantly eat the surface food including krill, forage fish and squids. However, with the inevitability of plastics, the smell of sulphur (deteriorating plastic) attracts the seabirds and hence why they eat the plastic. Algae is another organism which has been affected by the plastic waste, as animals, instead of eating the algae, eat the plastic and as a result, there is an abundance of algae. Because of this, the algae population will keep on multiplying and eventually block sunlight from reaching the other organisms below. As well as this, plastics have affected the fundamental building blocks of the Great Barrier Reef being the corals themselves (producers). The corals ingest the nearby plastic (non-selective eaters) and due to this, the plastic poisons the coral and increases the likelihood of sickness from 4 percent to 89 percent which is a significant increase. Without coral, no food and shelter will be provided for the smaller organisms to survive (fish) and as a result, the small fish species population begin to diminish and so does the higher order consumers. Based on the ecological pyramid, without producers, the ecosystem will collapse.
Analysis of the impact/change to the environment if two of the chosen organisms’ populations were to significantly change
If any of the organisms were dramatically changed, the Great barrier Reefs’ ecosystem would collapse. This is based off the ecological pyramid. For example, if the producers of the reef, the coral, were significantly reduced, there wouldn’t be enough habitats for small fishes and other organisms to live. As well as this, the production of food would not be sufficient to sustain the capacity of the low order consumers. If the number of living sharks in the great barrier reef increased, being more than the secondary consumers, there would be an over supply of tertiary consumers and not enough secondary consumers to feed the sharks. Due to this, with the abundance of sharks, the secondary consumers would be wiped out and there would be an oversupply of producers and high order consumers. Eventually, the shark population would die out due to starvation and the coral population species would collapse. This is why it is important, that no significant change should occur in the Great Barrier Reef.
Discussion of how humans can minimise the effects of plastic waste in the Great barrier reef
Humans are beginning to realise the full effect of plastic and have begun to implement rules and regulations to reduce the use of plastic material. In Australia, the reduction of single used plastic bags has been introduced throughout the supermarkets. As individuals, we are able to reduce plastic waste through recycling, not littering and picking up any rubbish left on the ground. By doing this, it will dramatically affect the amount of waste found in the Great Barrier reef, let alone the entire ocean. As well as this, with the rapid advancement of technology, plastics are now being made of more biodegradable material which will definitely aid with the breakdown of the plastics. Another way we can minimise plastic waste is to participate in “clean up groups” etc. Doing this will definitely reduce the amount of plastic waste that could enter our beloved Great Barrier Reef. Additionally, we could also support and voice our opinions about implementing rules to ban fishing in certain areas, pay higher fees if industrial leakage occurs.