Fine-scale geographic risk assessment of oxybenzone sunscreen pollution within Hanauma Bay using hydrodynamic characterization and modeling Journal Articles uri icon

  • Overview
  • Research
  • Identity
  • Additional Document Info
  • View All


  • Hanauma Bay's coral reef system is threatened by sunscreen pollution. Understanding the hydrodynamic nature of the bay is crucial for understanding the transport and fate of pollutants within the bay. This study conducted a comprehensive hydrodynamic analysis, revealing significant aspects of current patterns and their influence on sunscreen pollutant behavior. The analysis demonstrated the formation of flows that drive currents parallel to the shoreline, resulting in increased pollutant retention time over sensitive reef areas. Direct flushing currents were identified as playing a role in reducing pollution buildup. Particle dynamics analysis highlighted the importance of considering temporal dynamics and their implications for pollutant pathways, particularly through the swash zone during high tide phases. The study identified primary current patterns near the reef area and emphasized the circular behavior within the water body, affecting corals' susceptibility to bleaching in the southwestern part of Hanauma bay. To understand where oxybenzone concentrations were a threat to wildlife, we created a geographic model that integrated ecological risk assessment with hydrodynamic behavior in a given system, which we designate the Risk Quotient Plume - the geographic area where the concentration is above the threat level for a chemical. The study found high oxybenzone concentrations throughout the bay, threatening coral, fish, and algae populations. Oxybenzone's distribution indicated a serious threat to the entire back reef habitat and a hinderance to coral restoration efforts. The study also emphasizes the need to consider the hydrodynamic behavior of pollutants and their interaction with microplastics in the bay. Overall, the findings provide insights into hydrodynamics and pollutant dispersion in Hanauma Bay, supporting effective pollution management and conservation strategies.


  • Doust, Shadan Nasseri
  • Haghshenas, S Abbas
  • Bishop, Elizabeth E
  • Risk, Michael John
  • Downs, CA

publication date

  • January 2024