Adding insult to injury: Effects of chronic oxybenzone exposure and elevated temperature on two reef-building corals

Tim Wijgerde, Mike Van Ballegooijen, Reindert Nijland, Luna Van Der Loos, Christiaan Kwadijk, Ronald Osinga, Albertinka Murk, Diana Slijkerman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Coral bleaching due to global warming currently is the largest threat to coral reefs, which may be exacerbated by altered water quality. Elevated levels of the UV filter oxybenzone in coastal waters as a result of sunscreen use have recently been demonstrated. We studied the effect of chronic oxybenzone exposure and elevated water temperature on coral health. Microcolonies of Stylophora pistillata and Acropora tenuis were cultured in 20 flow-through aquaria, of which 10 were exposed to oxybenzone at a field-relevant concentration of ~0.06 μg L−1 at 26 °C. After two weeks, half of the corals experienced a heat wave culminating at 33 °C. All S. pistillata colonies survived the heat wave, although heat reduced growth and zooxanthellae density, irrespective of oxybenzone. Acropora tenuis survival decreased to 0% at 32 °C, and oxybenzone accelerated mortality. Oxybenzone and heat significantly impacted photosynthetic yield in both species, causing a 5% and 22–33% decrease, respectively. In addition, combined oxybenzone and temperature stress altered the abundance of five bacterial families in the microbiome of S. pistillata. Our results suggest that oxybenzone adds insult to injury by further weakening corals in the face of global warming.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139030
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date4 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Oxybenzone
  • benzophenone-3
  • acropora tenuis
  • Stylophora pistillata
  • Climate change
  • PSII yeild
  • microbiome


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