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Volume 619 Issue 7969, 13 July 2023

Troubled waters

Usually, sea urchins procure blades of seagrass or small pieces of rubble to help them blend in with the sea floor, but the fire urchin (Asthenosoma varium) on the cover has instead appropriated the remnants of a blue plastic bag and is entangled in a discarded fishing line stuck on a reef. Taken at a depth of 130 metres in the Philippines, the image highlights the increasing grip of plastic pollution on the world’s ecosystems. In this week’s issue, two papers help to quantify the extent to which even remote water environments are being affected by plastics. Hudson Pinheiro and his colleagues focus on coral reefs, looking for plastic contamination in 84 reef systems in 25 locations across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Veronica Nava and her co-workers examine microplastics in 38 lakes and reservoirs in 23 countries. Both teams come to the same conclusion: that plastic pollution is pervasive, and that monitoring and management should extend to all bodies of water.

Cover image: Luiz A. Rocha

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