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

We studied the effect of chronic oxybenzone exposure and elevated 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. A. tenuis survival was reduced to 0% at 32 °C, and oxybenzone accelerated mortality. Oxybenzone and heat significantly reduced 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.

Authors: Tim Wijgerde, Mike van Ballegooijen, Reindert Nijland, Luna van der Loos, Christiaan Kwadijk, Ronald Osinga, Albertinka Murk, Diana Slijkerman