Ecotoxicology of sunscreen on tropical corals in a changing ocean
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (nTiO2) are common UV-filter ingredients in sunscreen. Between 4000 and 6000 tons of sunscreen are estimated to be released into coral reef areas annually thus posing a potential major threat to tropical corals. Corals are known to be vulnerable to ocean acidification and increased seawater temperature driven by climate change, with mass coral bleaching becoming more frequent. Nevertheless, the combined effect of nTiO2 toxicity and climate change is unknown.
The aim of this project is to investigate the impact of TiO2 nanoparticles found in sunscreen on tropical corals, both host coral and isolated and in hospite algal symbiont (Symbiodinium sp.). The response of diverse Symbiodinium strains and coral species will be compared following exposures to different sunscreen formulations, nanoparticles coatings and different environmental conditions. Studies will address whether sunscreen toxicity change in interaction with projected future ocean conditions. Multiple endpoints to be investigated include symbiont density, photosynthetic activity, calcification, respiration, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and heat shock proteins (HSP) expression.
Professor Teresa Fernandes and Dr Sebastian Hennige