Water pollution can stunt, sicken, kill or sterilize aquatic animals and plants. Water pollution affects plants and animals in a variety of ways, depending on the nature of the pollutant in question. Because most pollution eventually makes its way to the world’s waters, it is a difficult type of pollution to prevent.
Water pollution can take many forms. Plastic bags, bottles and other floating debris litter huge swaths of the ocean, while toxic chemicals pour out of factories along the beach and off acres of farmland. Oil rigs sometimes dump crude oil and other harmful chemicals in the ocean as well. All of these pollutants can kill a large percentage of the local food chain. As with terrestrial food chains, once one rung in the ladder breaks, the others soon follow.
Water pollution may affect plants by blocking out sunlight or directly poisoning them. If the chemicals dumped into the water alter the pH, salt content or a variety of other characteristics, the local plants may suffer. Coral reefs, which are actually composed of animals that live plant-like lifestyles, often succumb to water pollution as well. Coral reefs and plants are both very dependent on the light levels that penetrate the water. Even something as harmless as sediment may function as a pollutant to such organisms.