Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coral Reef Restoration

This blog is dedicated to providing some education about the nature and character of coral reef restoration and its importance to our global community. It is also a dedication to Wolf Hilbertz, who passed away on August 11, 2007, and who was an inspiring pioneer of new technologies in architecture and marine habitat restoration, a dear friend and colleague of Dr. Tom Goreau. Finally, this blog is also dedicated to the collaborative efforts of Dr. Tom Goreau who is the President of Global Coral Reef Alliance, Scientific Advisor of the Advisory Board of Pacific Aquaculture Cooperatives International (PAC), and lead partner of the UN SIDS Partnership Implementation of New Technologies for Sustainable Development, through whose tireless efforts the immense work of coral reef restoration is carried on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Coral reefs are the most sensitive of all ecosystems to global warming, pollution, and new diseases. They will be first to go as a result of climate change. As the most important resources for fisheries, tourism, shore protection, and marine biodiversity for more than a hundred countries, this will be a huge disaster.

Almost all reefs have already been heated above their maximum temperature thresholds. Many have already lost most of their corals, and temperature rise in most places gives only a few years before most corals die from heatstroke.


Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse marine eco-systems on earth, rivaled only by the tropical rainforests on land. Corals grow over geologic time and have been in existence about 200 million years. Corals reached their current level of diversity 50 million years ago.The delicately balanced marine environment of the coral reef relies on the interaction of hard and soft corals, sponges, anemones, snails, rays, crabs, lobsters, turtles, dolphins and other sea life.

Human activity continues to represent the single greatest threat to coral reefs living in Earth's oceans. In particular, pollution and over-fishing are the most serious threats to these ecosystems. Physical destruction of reefs due to boat and shipping traffic is also a problem. The live food fish trade has been implicated as a driver of decline due to the use of cyanide and other chemicals in the capture of small fishes. Finally, above normal water temperatures, due to climate phenomena of global warming, can cause coral bleaching. According to The Nature Conservancy, if destruction increases at the current rate, 70% of the world’s coral reefs will have disappeared within 50 years. This loss would be an economic disaster for peoples living in the tropics. Hughes, et al, (2003), writes that "with increased human population and improved storage and transport systems, the scale of human impacts on reefs has grown exponentially. For example, markets for fishes and other natural resources have become global, supplying demand for reef resources far removed from their tropical sources".

At the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Ray Berkelmans and his team of research scientists dedicate their knowledge and skills to what has become a crucial problem in the past decade: increasing ocean temperatures have caused many corals to bleach and die in 1992, 1998 and 2002 so what will the future bring? Will corals be able to survive?

At the helm of the global efforts to remediate this massive problem is Dr. Tom Goreau, President of Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1990 and dedicated to growing, protecting and managing the most threatened of all marine ecosystems—coral reefs. GCRA is a coalition of volunteer scientists, divers, environmentalists and other individuals and organizations, committed to coral reef preservation. We primarily focus on coral reef restoration, marine diseases and other issues caused by global climate change, environmental stress and pollution.

At the recent Coral Reef Symposium in Bali, Indonesia, scientists concluded that most of the world’s ocean reefs have been killed or severely damaged with the remainder in certain jeopardy. Disastrous reverses in reef health threaten marine biodiversity, tourism, fisheries and shore protection worldwide. Reefs die for many reasons: rising water temperatures, sewage flows, eutrophication, disease, and negligence. A reef ecosystem that took hundreds of years to grow can be destroyed in a single afternoon by dredging, dynamite or cyanide fishing.

When coral reefs die, fish populations disappear; beaches and shorelines are damaged. Unprotected by breakwaters, fragile land areas become vulnerable to erosion, saltwater intrusion and destruction from waves.

A patented form of mineral accretion called the Biorock® Process, owned by Biorock®, Inc. and licensed to GCRA. With it corals thrive, even in environments where water quality is poor and surrounding corals are dying.

[Dr.Thomas J. Goreau and his MIT student received an IDEAS Award here discusses coral reefs and the Biorock technology.]

A structure is built from ordinary construction steel and welded together on the beach. If there is no welding equipment available, ready-made building mesh can be used or the structure can be wired together by hand. Once installed in the sea, battery chargers send a low-voltage current directly to the metal, and electrolysis then causes the minerals naturally present in seawater to build up. Young coral can only grow on clean limestone, and this is exactly what develops on Biorock’s substrate, stimulating young corals to not only develop more quickly than they would naturally, but also to show greater resilience and resistance to environmental changes. Learning more of this technology can be found by visiting