Coral Reef Systems, Even The World’s Largest, Are Dying Due to Continuous Bleaching- Are 3D-Printed Reefs The Solution?
Coral reefs are undeniably essential to marine life- they’re various aquatic biomes held together by its secretion of calcium carbonate structures and are the home of most of our beloved sea creatures.
However, according to a recently published report in Nature’s Scientific Reports,
almost every coral reef in the ocean will be suffering yearly bleaching events by the end of this century. Another study published on Nature
even shows how the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, has already been damaged (about a fourth of its coral) due to the past year’s bleaching event which could worsen. But there’s still hope…probably.
Fake reefs are believed to less vulnerable to changes in temperature and more hard-wearing in the changing ocean chemistry than genuine reefs. By utilizing 3D-printing technology, these fake reefs are said to imitate the texture and structure of natural reefs that can recreate all the nooks and crannies helping certain marine lives feed or even avoid predators as well as give them enough shade or light.
Boskalis, a Dutch maritime firm, together with Prince Albert II of Monaco foundation printed six 3D reef structures in an effort to restore the Monaco Larvotto Reserve. Each reef structure is made of dolomite sand, weighs 2.5 tons, and took 13 hours to print. Company senior engineers Astrid Kramer and Jamie Lescinski said in an interview that the 3D printed reefs will be monitored for two years to see how the marine life returns to it. “Nowadays, in order to get sufficient habitat, you need a more complex structure with cavities and small spaces,” says Kramer.
While this effort is very much appreciated, “There is no silver bullet with coral restoration,” Fabien Cousteau,
grandson of the late, famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau warns. “You are talking about a very complex environment, a complex animal with a lot of variations with each subspecies. All of this is an experiment. In the short term, we’ve seen a lot of positive momentum with certain species of coral. But remember, this is a drop in the bucket in a very, very large ocean.”