Ninety years of change on the Great Barrier Reef

By Tom Goreau
 
Ninety years ago the Cambridge University Great Barrier Reef Expedition at Low Isle laid the foundations of modern coral research. 
 
The Global Coral Reef Alliance team has just spent the week with a Canadian documentary film crew filming the Low Isle reefs to document the changes since 1928.
 
The 1928-1929 expedition did pioneering work on the physiology of corals, on water quality, and many other subjects, covered in a voluminous series of scientific reports.
 
The Expedition found that corals bleached if their temperature was raised about one degree C, and died if it was raised about 2 degrees C. These limits that have not changes in nearly a century. They also discovered mass coral spawning, and found that corals would avidly eat small zooplankton animals, but would not eat microscopic plants, or phytoplankton.  These fundamental findings were only “discovered” by Australian coral scientists generations later.
 
They had no underwater diving gear or underwater photographic equipment, so their photos were of exposed coral reefs at low tide, corals collected from tide pools, and water samples. At one point they borrowed pearl diver’s helmets and pumps, and dived to see the reef, limited to the length of the hose, but unfortunately they had no underwater cameras to record the reef below the water surface.
 
Sir Maurice Yonge, leader of the Cambridge University Great Barrier Reef Expedition with his wife Mattie, the expedition doctor, on Low Isle in 1928.
The first underwater photography of the Great Barrier Reef was not done until 1950, by my grandfather Fritz Goreau (who used the professional name Goro), the inventor of macro and close up photography, and many other methods of scientific visualization to reveal what previously could not be seen or imaged. He photographed reefs underwater along the length of the GBR, all the way to Mer (Murray Island) in the extreme north end of the GBR near New Guinea (which Yonge had identified as the best reefs in the GBR), and  he photographed along the entire GBR from the air.
 
Fritz Goreau (left) at Low Isle in 1950
 
After my father, Tom Goreau, pioneered diving marine science in the 1940s, first explored the ecological zonation of coral reefs, and did pioneering work on the anatomy, ecology, physiology, and biochemistry of corals, Sir Maurice adopted our family as his scientific successors. My father, my mother, Dr. Nora Goreau, the first Panamanian and Central American marine scientist, and I worked with Maurice researching coral physiology, giant clams, and Fungiacava, most unusual clams we discovered in the Red Sea that are invisible because they bore inside of coral skeletons and feed directly out of the coral’s stomach. After the 1928 Great Barrier Reef Expedition, Maurice became the world’s top authority on the mollusks (clams, snails, and their relatives), and published classic books on the ecology of marine life around Britain. He told me in his old age that he had never expected to work on coral reefs again, but working with my father rejuvenated him and gave him a new lease of life. 

 

Sir Maurice Yonge as I knew him.
In 1967 Maurice and my father went back to the GBR, where they were the first to study coral communities adapted to very muddy habitats. Maurice was shocked to see the changes at Low Isle since 1929. The shallow reef, which had been completely covered with magnificent hard corals, was now dominated by soft corals. The sugar industry had moved into the lowland areas of Queensland, using Pacific Islanders, mostly from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, for labor. Whole villages and islands were emptied of their people at gun point, forced onto ships, and used as slaves in Australia, although described by the euphemism “blackbirding”. Many died, and few returned home. As a result of the near total deforestation of Queensland lowlands, coastal waters turned muddy brown from eroded soils. After the Second World War the sugar plantations, whose yields had declined severely from erosion of soil and nutrients, began to apply chemical fertilizers on a large scale, most of which washed down rivers into the sea, triggering harmful algae blooms that overgrew and killed almost all the nearshore coral reefs. This process is called eutrophication.
 
In the early 1990s Peter Bell, a chemical engineer at the University of Queensland, discovered the quantitative nutrient limits that separate healthy coral reefs from dead algae-overgrown eutrophic reefs. He re-established the Low Isle Research Laboratory to repeat the 1920s Cambridge University team measurements. Low Isle reefs that had been completely covered with hard corals now had only around one tenth that amount. He and his colleague Ibrahim Elmetri found that phytoplankton (microscopic algae), had increased four or five times, explaining why the blue waters had turned green, and why phytoplankton-eating soft corals now dominated over hard corals. They found that the phosphate content of the waters (derived from land-based runoff) had risen, explaining why algae, which had barely been noted in the 1920s, now dominates the shallow reef flat.
 
Instead of encouraging this important work on the causes of the declining health of the GBR, his funding was cut, his lab was closed, and the authorities spent millions of dollars dumping agricultural fertilizer on reefs to “prove” that they had no effect on corals! When they “discovered that fertilizers were not a problem”, they didn’t say that the reef they chose was already eutrophic and covered with algae! Denying the causes of coral decline from nutrients, crown of thorns, diseases, and bleaching caused by global warming has been a systematic pattern. The Australian authorities have long boasted of being perfect environmental managers, so admitting that most of the corals had died under their “management” was something they concealed and denied, paying scientists for hire (“biostitutes”) to say that everything was fine, and if there was any damage it was just a natural cycle that would go away all by itself because their perfect management had made the reefs “resilient” so they would bounce back by themselves.
 
Peter Bell accompanied the Global Coral Reef Alliance team to Low Isle this year. He was shocked to see how much algae had spread over the dead shallow reef at Low Isle. The corals had been badly affected by bleaching caused by global warming in recent years, another cause of reef mortality that the authorities denied until almost all the corals were dead and they could no longer hide the obvious catastrophe:
 
Our filming showed a dramatic decline in corals compared to the old photos. In the best areas of Low Isle reefs we still found huge ancient corals, some of the largest I have ever seen. However there were no large Acroporas, the coral family that used to be overwhelmingly dominant, and which were the fastest growing and most important for fish habitat and shore protection. The Acroporas we saw were small, most had settled after the last bleaching event. Although there were some very large corals, their species diversity was low. Almost all large corals consisted of Porites lutea heads, branching Porites cylindrica, Goniopora, Oxypora, and Heliopora, all corals that are more resistant to high temperature and pollution than Acropora. These are basically the last survivors. The water is now rapidly warming, and if this continues another bleaching event could kill many of them in the coming weeks and months. 
 
We also looked at coastal fringing reefs, which used to line the entire coast except for river mouths. Brandon Walker and Bennett Walker, of the local Kuku Yulanji Aboriginal community, took us out on areas that had been huge green seagrass beds full of turtles and dugong, behind reefs which they remembered covered with live corals, full of barramundi, blue starfish, and sea urchins. All have vanished under slimy mud washed down the rivers from the sugar cane fields inland. We filmed local organic farmer Andre Leu, who has improved his farm soil so that it no longer erodes and washes precious topsoil and nutrients into the sea. He has increased the organic matter in his soil six times through composting, without adding chemical fertilizers, so his soil is much more fertile, and holds much more water. In contrast to his farm, where heavy rain soaks into the ground, the rain on the sugar fields runs right off the hard compacted soils and does not infiltrate into the ground, shortening the growing season while killing the reefs with mud and fertilizer nutrients. If all the farmers used his methods, dumping of mud and nutrients onto the reef could stop. Moreover he is absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, while his neighbors are releasing it! If all farmers used progressive carbon farming, we could end global warming and reduce CO2 to safe, pre-industrial levels.
 
The Global Coral Reef Alliance plans to scan the historic photographs from the Yonge and Goreau coral reef photograph collections from 1928, 1950, 1967, and 1998 (when I lived on Low Isle and filmed the reefs on all sides) to compare them to the 2018 footage. These have never seen before in Australia,and  will be posted on the web and used for historic documentation and public education. GCRA will work with courageous truth-telling scientists like Peter Bell and Ibrahim Elmetri, the Low Isle Preservation Society, Great Barrier Reef Legacy, a local coral reef documentation and preservation organization founded by John Rumney, who has dived on the reef since 1974 and seen most of it die, with the Mayor of Port Douglas, the local environmental management organizations, and the Traditional Owners of this coast, the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginal community to: 
1) make the historic photographs available in Australia for public education on the long term changes to the reefs
2) re-estabish the Low Isles Research Laboratory for cutting edge environmental monitoring and research on coral reef sustainability
3) restore the damaged coral reefs, both offshore and inshore, using modern Biorock electric reef technology, which the Australian authorities have never allowed.

The warning was issued 20 years ago on the once Great Barrier Reef

The warning was issued 20 years ago, when the Townsville Bulletin published this article about how coral bleaching was affecting the Great Barrier Reef and how global warming would kill the corals. 
 
 

 

Transcript: 

Coral bleaching killing our reefs

By DEBBIE XINOS

CORAL bleaching is killing the world’s coral reef systems.

But according to experts, the Great Barrier Reef has escaped serious damage — for now.

Unless stringent management practices were adopted worldwide the future for even the Great Barrier Reef was bleak, they said.

The warning was issued yesterday at the International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium conference in Townsville.

Marine Ecologist Terry Done said this year’s warm weather had caused coral bleaching on a record number of reefs.
He said while this could be attributed to unprecedented climatic changes, it was too early to lay blame on the effects of global warming.

“If the projections of global climate change do come about it’s likely we will see more years like this in the future”, Dr Done said.

Add to that increased human activity and the likelihood of wide-spread coral reef destruction was almost guaranteed, reef expert John McManus said.

Dr McManus said the main concern was the overfishing of reef stocks, which could affect the natural balance between fish and algae.

“This the real test — we have a large part of the world’s corals which have been bleached”, he said. “Those which come back and those which don’t will tell us lot about the effects of coral bleaching.

Reef expert Gregor Hobson said Australia, in particular North Queensland, played a vital role in ensuring the survival or the world’s reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef’s status as the largest and healthiest reef system in the world makes it an ideal role model for other countries, he said.

 

The Minister of Environment, Robert Hill, had previously announced that high temperature was not the cause of coral bleaching, and issued an order that no Australian Government employee, including those at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was allowed to discuss any possible connection. 

The Australian authorities refused to allow me to present the global coral reef temperature data at their 1998 coral reef management conference in Townsville, during the height of the mass bleaching that affected most of the world’s coral reefs that year.

Hundreds of coral reef managers from all over the world, whose reefs were bleaching and dying at that very moment, were told instead that nobody knew the cause, except that it was NOT high temperature!

At the official press conference afterwards, Terry Done, leader of the national GBR monitoring efforts, was asked by a reporter “Dr Done, is it true that the Australian Government has ordered all government employees not to discuss any possible connection between global warming and bleaching?”. Terry, wearing a big grin, said “I couldn’t possibly comment on that!”.

The Australian authorities completely ignored these warnings, and now them seem to be surprised that what happened to the GBR was exactly what I had predicted would happen at these temperatures. 

The very Australian scientists who refused to admit that global warming was a threat to their coral reefs, now claim to have “discovered” the impacts, as usual by ignoring what was done before them. 

By change I’m back in Townsville 20 years later to give an invited keynote talk at the Global Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference, and mentioned how we kept entire coral reefs in Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia alive with Biorock technology during severe bleaching events that killed more than 95% of the corals on nearby reefs.

But the Australian authorities still won’t allow us to do this in the GBR! Yesterday Cairns had record hot temperatures, and the bleaching season is fast approaching. 

The facts have long been in: we passed the global temperature tipping point for mass coral bleaching in the 1980s, and governments have been denying the facts for more than 30 years: http://www.globalcoral.org/we-have-already-exceeded-the-upper-temperature-limit-for-coral-reef-ecosystems-which-are-dying-at-todays-co2-levels/

Until we have intelligent and informed political leadership, we can expect no action to reduce atmospheric CO2 to rescue our planet’s life support systems in time to prevent the functional extinction of coral reef ecosystems, a capital crime against the environment that will take millions of years to undo. 

Yesterday’s rejection of the US national climate change report by the US president shows once again that when lies trump truth, the dark ages follow. 


Biorock brings corals back in Ambon

The corals of Ambon, in the Moluccas of Eastern Indonesia, were made famous by some of the greatest Natural Historians who ever lived.
 
In the 1600s Georg Eberhard Rumpf, better known as Rumphius, described hundreds of new species of Ambonese plants and marine animals, including corals, even though he could not see them because he was completely blind and described them by feeling the specimens with his hands. 
 
 
 
In the 1800s Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the Laws of Evolution, was spellbound by the stunning variety of shapes and colors of corals completely covering the bottom of Ambon Bay.  
 
 
Even though he never could see them except looking over the side of a boat into the crystal clear waters, Wallace realized from that glimpse that there was as fantastic a world in the reefs as he found in the jungles, and longed to be able to dive like a fish and see them as close up as the birds, mammals, and insects he studied. And so had Charles Darwin. 
 
Portrait of Charles Darwin
 
That only happened when Prof. Thomas F. Goreau became the first diving marine scientist in the 1940s. 
 
Ambon was for centuries a major center of the spice trade. Greatly increased populations cut down the jungles along the shore. Mud, and later, sewage and plastic, polluted the bay and killed almost all the corals (D. Ontosari, P. T. Karissa, M. Tjatur, H. Lating, R. Sudharna, K. Astika, I. M. Gunaksa, & T. Goreau, 2015, Geotourism combining geo-biodiversity and sustainable development of tropical Holocene coral reef ecosystems: Comparison of two Indonesia eco-regions using Biorock technology, Proceedings Joint Convention Balikpapan HAGI-IAGI-IAFMI-IATMI).
 
Biorock Indonesia, the Maluku Fisheries Department, local fishermen, and students from Universitas Pattimura have been growing Biorock coral reefs in the muddy waters inside Ambon Bay that amazed Rumphius and Wallace back when the waters were transparent. 
 
This project, started by Komang Astika, Prawita Tasya Karissa, and Ruselan Sudharna, managed by Sandhi Raditya, and sponsored by Pertamina, has already stimulated settlement of new branching Acropora corals that had nearly vanished (see photos below). 
 
Here on Ambon nearly 30 years ago Muslims and Christians were killing each other, goaded by outside religious fanatics. Now in this place there are Biorock coral reefs shaped like a church and a mosque, side by side, to emphasize that the environment affects every single one of us, whether we realize it or not, and that we must all work together to regenerate it for the sake of future generations.
 
More Biorock reefs will be installed in the next few days.
 
Rumphius and Wallace would be delighted!
 
Updates to this project can be found here
 
 
BIOROCK AMBON, November 18 2018, photos by Komang Astika and Sandhi Raditya
Acropora, Merulina, and Pocillipora

 

Euphyllia ancora
Acropora
Acropora
Acropora

 

Acropora

Coral growth after one month on new Cozumel Biorock reefs

These photos, taken by Torcuato Pulido Mantas in early July 2018, show typical examples of very healthy coral growth after just one month on new Biorock reefs in Cozumel, Mexico. The corals shown were naturally damaged and were rescued from dying when transplanted onto the Biorock reefs a month before. Around half the coral species now being grown are shown in these photos.

The growth and settlement of corals on the Biorock projects and control sites is now being studied by Torcuato Pulido Mantas, with the advice of Dr. German Mendez of the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program and Dr. Tom Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance.

The coral species shown below are: 1) Eusmillia fastigiata, 2) Porites astreoides, 3) Orbicella (Montastrea) annularis, 4) Agaricia agaricites, 5) Porites porites (front) with Agaricia tenuifolia (top), 6) Diploria labyrinthiformis, and 7) Meandrina meandrites.

More photos and video from these projects will be posted later as the project progresses.


Biorock Oyster, Salt Marsh, and Sea Grass Restoration for Coastal Protection, Fisheries Habitat Regeneration, Submerged Breakwaters, and Artificial Islands

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

INTRODUCTION

Biorock technology, first invented in 1976 in Grand Isle, Louisiana by the late Wolf Hilbertz, architecture professor at the University of Texas at Austin (Hilbertz, 1979; Goreau & Hilbertz 2005), provides the highest settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to extreme environmental stresses such as temperature, mud, and pollution for all marine organisms investigated (Goreau, 2014), including corals, oysters, salt marsh grass, and seagrass, the very ecosystem builders whose loss has caused massive global coastal erosion. The method is completely safe and uses very little power. Biorock materials, which can be grown in any size or shape, are up to 3 or more times harder than concrete, and are the only marine construction materials that grow stronger with age and are self-repairing if physically damaged (Goreau 2012). Biorock technology saves whole coral reefs when they would die from extreme high temperature bleaching. Biorock methods have grown thriving oyster, salt marsh, and sea grass ecosystems in places where they had died completely and failed to regenerate naturally (Goreau & Trench, 2012). Biorock reefs have grown back severely eroded beaches naturally in just months (Goreau & Prong, 2017). It is therefore the most powerful tool for restoring essential but vanishing marine ecosystem services including protection of the coast from erosion, maintenance of biodiversity, and restoration of essential juvenile fish habitat. It is also the most cost-effective marine regeneration method, providing vastly superior results at much lower cost than the methods that have been used previously. This GCRA White Paper outlines the results of previous relevant work (apart from coral reefs which have been discussed elsewhere), and suggests specific applications to restore rapidly retreating coastal ecosystems.

PREVIOUS WORK: OYSTERS

The first Biorock projects, done at Grand Isle, Louisiana, aimed to produce building materials via seawater electrolysis, by precipitating hard limestone minerals from sea water on top of steel frames. The steel was entirely protected from corrosion and hard white minerals grew over it. The first projects were powered by photovoltaic panels, and when Wolf Hilbertz came back three months later the limestone was completely overgrown with adult sized oysters that had spontaneously settled and grown all over it (Hilbertz, 1979). Oyster covered material from Louisiana is the Biorock in the upper left of the image below.

Figure 1. Spontaneously oyster covered Biorock material after three months growth in Louisiana (upper left) contrasted with Biorock material grown in the Maldives. Photo by Wolf Hilbertz.

A wire mesh basket, 9 inches across, was wired up for growth of materials, a few months later it was packed completely full with oysters that had spontaneously settled and grown (Goreau, 2012). The basket was then taken out of the water, and sat outdoors for around 25 years exposed to rain in a backyard in British Columbia. When it was removed from the ocean there was no rust visible and the metal was shiny, all the rusting in the photo took place in this period of exposure on land.

Figure 2. Oysters that spontaneously settled in a metal basket and grew to adult size in months. Grand Isle, Louisiana. Photo by Eric Vanderzee.

Similar intense spontaneous settlement of mussels was observed in an experiment in the Straits of Georgia, British Columbia (Goreau, 2012). The photo below shows a mesh wired up to a trickle charge in the center, on with a smaller charge on the left, and one with no charge on the right.

Figure 3. Spontaneous mussel settlement on steel mesh with very low (left), low (center), and zero trickle charge. Photo by Eric Vanderzee.

In a Superfund toxic waste site in New York City harbor where all the oysters had died from pollution, oysters (Crassostrea virginica) were grown with low, very low, and zero Biorock charges. The Biorock charges greatly increased growth rates over the entire growing season. Note that only length figures were measured, Biorock oysters also grew wider and thicker, so their volume increase was hundreds of times higher than controls (Shorr et al., 2012).

Figure 4. Growth in length of oysters with various trickle charges at a Superfund site in New York City over a summer growing season. Figure from Shorr et al., 2012.

At the same site oysters were measured over the winter dormant season. Biorock oysters continued to grow all winter long, without a dormant season, their shells were shiny and bright, and there was no mortality. Ninety-three per cent of control oysters died over the winter, and the surviving oyster shells had shrunk in size. The shells were chalky and crumbling, dissolving from high CO2 and acidity in water at freezing temperatures (Shorr et al., 2012).

Figure 5. Growth in length of oysters with various trickle charges at a Superfund site in New York City over a winter dormant season. Figure from Shorr et al., 2012.

Similar results of higher growth rate and survival of the Eastern Oyster with Biorock electrical currents were found in flow through tank experiments in downtown Manhattan (Berger et al., 2012), and other sites. Only Atlantic Oyster results are summarized here, but we have also found greatly accelerated settlement, growth, and survival of many species of wild tropical oysters on Biorock projects around the world, including mangrove oysters, coral reef oysters, and pearl oysters, as well as Giant Clams.

PREVIOUS WORK: SALT MARSH

Salt Marsh Grass, Spartina alterniflora, was restored at a Superfund toxic waste site in New York City where it had been killed by pollution a century before. Salt marsh grass growth in the mid intertidal under low, very low, and zero trickle charge from a solar panel was measured. The growth rate, as measured by clump height, was proportional to electrical charge (Cervino et al., 2012). The electrically charged grass was also observed to have more plants per clump and darker green leaves as well as greater height when compared to controls, but biomass measurements were not made as they required sacrificing the grass.

Figure 6. Growth rate of Salt Marsh Grass under zero, very low, and low trickle charge. Solar panel charging project is seen in the background (Photograph by James Cervino).

Salt marsh grass was also planted with and without solar trickle charge in the low intertidal, lower than the lower limit of the seagrass naturally in the area. Salt marsh grass growth is limited in the low intertidal because they are mostly submerged, getting little light in the muddy water, and are more exposed to storm wave erosion than plants higher up. All controls died at the end of the year. Biorock salt marsh grass in this hostile site has grown vigorously, sprung up anew every spring with more plants, which have increased more than 20-fold over 10 years (Cervino et al., 2012).

Figure 7. Biorock Salt Marsh Grass growing vigorously below the local lower limit for this plant. (Photograph by Tom Goreau)

Most salt marsh planting projects fail because plants are washed away by waves before the roots can grow. These results show that with Biorock, root growth, and underground plant runner spreading is greatly accelerated, so salt marshes can be extended seawards in places where they are now retreating inland due to the erosion caused by global sea level rise and intensified storm waves caused by global warming (Goreau, 2012).

PREVIOUS WORK: SEAGRASS

Seagrasses are being devastated worldwide by dredging and increased turbidity and pollution in coastal waters. Seagrasses (Posidonia oceanica) were grown in southern Italy with and without trickle charge from a solar panel. The wire mesh used for both was attached to hard bare limestone rock bottom. The Biorock seagrass grew vigorously, with the roots rapidly attaching to the rock bottom, and large numbers of mussels, clams, oysters, shrimps, crabs, and fish settled in the sea grass habitat. The controls all died (Vaccarella & Goreau, 2012). What is most astonishing about these results is that the sea grass was grown on bare rock, where it is normally impossible for seagrass to grow, as growth of roots requires about 5-10 centimeters of sandy or muddy sediment.

Figure 8. Excellent growth of seagrass on Biorock over three months in the Mediterranean. All control seagrass died. Photograph by Raffaele Vaccarella.

Figure 9. Dense root growth of seagrass on Biorock in the Mediterranean, colonized by a wide variety of invertebrates and fishes. Photograph by Raffaele Vaccarella.

Caribbean seagrasses, Thalassia testudinum and Syringodium filiforme, were observed to grow much taller under and next to Biorock projects in the Bahamas and Panama. Many species of Indo Pacific seagrasses were observed to do the same in Indonesia.

Figure 10. Vigorous sea grass growth around a Biorock project in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photograph by Paulus Prong.

Most seagrass, salt marsh, and mangrove planting projects fail because the plants are washed away by waves before the roots can grow. These results show that with Biorock, marine plant root growth and underground spread is greatly accelerated, so that sea grass can be grown even on bare rock. Restoring mangroves as well as sea grasses, salt marsh grasses, and coral and oyster reefs will provide the strongest natural shore protection against erosion from global climate change, and the most cost-effective carbon sinks.

PREVIOUS WORK: BEACH RESTORATION

Biorock coral reefs grown in front of severely eroding beaches with erosion cliffs, where the sand was mostly gone, trees were falling into the sea, and buildings being moved inland before they could collapse, grew back the beach sand naturally at record rates in just months, increasing beach height up to 1.5-2 meters, beach width by up to 20 meters, and beach length up to 150 meters. Rapid regeneration of severely eroded beaches was first done in the Maldives (Goreau and Hilbertz, 2005), Lombok, Indonesia (Goreau et al., 2012), and Sulawesi, Indonesia (Goreau & Prong, 2017). Concave eroding beaches became convex and growing in a few months, and have continued to steadily grow even under heavy wave and current conditions that should erode them. Biorock reefs cause sand growth by dissipating wave energy through refraction and diffraction without the reflection that causes scour and erosion, by driving wave fronts out of coherence, and by greatly increasing production of sand by calcareous algae and other organisms. Corals, beach sand-producing algae, seagrass, and all forms of reef life are attracted and grow rapidly.

Figure 11. Before: severely eroding Maldives beach. Photograph by Wolf Hilbertz

Figure 12. After, 15 meters (50 feet) of rapid new beach growth behind Biorock reef, in front of a building that had been about to collapse into the sea. Photograph by Azeez Hakeem.

Figure 13. Before, December 2015, Pulau Gangga, Sulawesi, Indonesia beach largely gone, erosion cliff, trees collapsing into the ocean and building about to fall into the sea. Photograph by Paulus Prong.

Figure 14. After, rapid growth of new beach in front of same collapsed tree and cabana that had been about to fall into the ocean. Most of this growth took place in just 3 months. Photograph by Paulus Prong.

PREVIOUS WORK: HURRICANE SURVIVAL

Biorock reefs, if properly designed, have proven to withstand the most severe hurricane. The Biorock reefs cement themselves to hard ground, and cement sediment around their bases. Biorock reefs in Grand Turk, the Turks and Caicos Islands, withstood direct hits by the two worst hurricanes in their history, which occurred three days apart, and damaged or destroyed around 90% of the buildings. There was little damage to Biorock structures or thousands of corals growing on them, although electrical cables were sandblasted and ripped out. Sand accumulated under them, while at the same time concrete artificial reefs nearby caused so much scour around and under them that they sank beneath the surface (Wells et al, 2010).

Figure 15a. Biorock reef just before the two worst hurricanes in Grand Turk history.

Figure 15b. Biorock reef in Grand Turk shortly after the two worst hurricanes in their history. Sand built up under the structures while sand was scoured around the cement blocks in the center, and half of the blocks were washed away by the waves, while there was no damage to Biorock structure or corals. The structures were not welded, only hand wired together, nor were they attached to the bottom except through their own cementation. Photographs by Fernando Perez.

Biorock reefs in Saint Barthelemy withstood the eye wall waves of Category 5 Hurricane Irma without any damage to structure, corals, or the electrical cable. This site, about 2-3 feet deep on top of the reef crest, had waves at least 30 feet high breaking directly on it, and all the houses and hotels on the beach behind the reef were destroyed: http://www.globalcoral.org/biorock-electric-coral-reefs-survive-severe-hurricanes-little-no-damage/.

PROPOSED PROJECTS

Biorock is ideal to grow:

Coral reefs in the subtidal
Seagrass in the subtidal
Salt marshes, in the intertidal
Oyster reefs in the intertidal
Offshore subtidal or intertidal Biorock porous shore protection reefs and fish habitat to grow back beaches
Offshore artificial islands above high tide
Floating reefs for open ocean fisheries

Specific designs require on-site assessment of many physical, chemical, biological, geological, oceanographic, meteorological, and infrastructural parameters to design for the specific needs and problems of each site.

Please contact info@globalcoral.org for more information on how Biorock is the most-cost effective solution to a vast range of marine resource management problems.

The Global Coral Reef Alliance is a non-profit environmental research organization that works with local partners around the globe to assess and reverse the causes killing their reefs.

REFERENCES

N. Berger, M. Haseltine, J. T. Boehm, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Increased oyster growth and survival using Biorock Technology, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

J. Cervino, D. Gjoza, C. Lin, R. Weeks, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Electrical fields increase salt marsh survival and growth and speed restoration in adverse conditions, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

T. J. Goreau, 2012, Marine electrolysis for building materials and environmental restoration, p. 273-290 in Electrolysis, J. Kleperis & V. Linkov (Eds.), InTech Publishing, Rijeka, Croatia

T. J. Goreau, 2012, Marine ecosystem electrotherapy: practice and theory, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

T. J. Goreau, 2014, Electrical stimulation greatly increases settlement, growth, survival, and stress resistance of marine organisms, Natural Resources, 5:527-537
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/nr.2014.510048

T. J. Goreau & W. Hilbertz, 2005, Marine ecosystem restoration: costs and benefits for coral reefs, WORLD RESOURCE REVIEW, 17: 375-409

T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), 2012, Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

T. J. Goreau, W. Hilbertz, A. Azeez A. Hakeem, T. Sarkisian, F. Gutzeit, & A. Spenhoff, 2012, Restoring reefs to grow back beaches and protect coasts from erosion and global sea level rise, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

T. J. F. Goreau & P. Prong, 2017, Biorock reefs grow back severely eroded beaches in months, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, Special Issue on Coastal Sea Levels, Impacts, and Adaptation, J. Mar. Sci. Eng., 5(4), 48; doi:10.3390/jmse5040048

W. Hilbertz, 1979, Electrodeposition of minerals in sea water: Experiments and Applications, IEEE Journal on Ocean Engineering, OE4: 1-19

J. Shorr, J. Cervino. C. Lin, R. Weeks, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Electrical stimulation increases oyster growth and survival in restoration projects, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

R. Vaccarella & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Restoration of seagrass mats (Posidonia oceanica) with electrical stimulation, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press

L. Wells, F. Perez, M. Hibbert, L. Clervaux, J. Johnson, & T. Goreau, 2010, Effect of severe hurricanes on Biorock coral reef restoration projects in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, Revista Biologia Tropical, 58: 141-149


Biorock Technology: A Novel Tool for Large-Scale Whole-Ecosystem Sustainable Mariculture using Direct Biophysical Stimulation of Marine Organism’s Biochemical Energy Metabolism

2018 International Summit on Fisheries & Aquaculture

Biorock Technology: A Novel Tool for Large-Scale Whole-Ecosystem Sustainable Mariculture using Direct Biophysical Stimulation of Marine Organism’s Biochemical Energy Metabolism

Biorock mariculture technology is a novel application of marine electrolysis, which grows solid limestone reefs of any size or shape in seawater, that get stronger with age and are self-repairing. Biorock reefs can be designed to provide habitat specific to needs of hard and soft corals, sponges, seagrass, fishes, lobsters, oysters, giant clams, sea cucumbers, mussels, and other marine organisms of economic value, or grow back severly eroded beaches at record rates. Biorock reefs, and surronding areas, have greatly increased settlement, growth rate, survival, and resistance to severe environmental stress from high temperatures, sedimentation, and pollution for all marine organisms observed. This allows marine ecosystems to survive otherwise lethal conditions and be regenerated at record rates even in places with no natural recovery. These remarkable findings seem to result from weak electrical fields poising the membrane voltage gradients all forms of life use to generate biochemical energy (ATP and NADP), causing enhanced growth of all species. Biorock technology provides a new paradigm for whole-ecosystem sustainable mariculture that generates its own food supplies, the antithesis of conventional mono-species mariculture dependent on external food inputs, whose wastes cause eutrophication that kills off surrounding subsistence fisheries. Potential applications include fish, crustacean, and bivalve mariculture, algae mariculture, pharmaceutical producing species, and floating reefs for pelagic fishes. The power requirements are small and can be provided by solar, wind, ocean current, and wave energy. The techniques are ideally suited for community—managed mariculture, if investment funding were available to subsistence fishing communities.

Biography

Thomas J.F Goreau was educated in Jamaican schools and hold degrees  from MIT, Caltech, and Harvard. President and founder of The Global Coral Reef Alliance, he has dived on coral reefs across the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and SouthEast Asia for more than 60 years. He has published more than 150 papers and written and edited books on scientific photography, marine ecosystem restoration, and soil fertility restoration. He is co-inventor of the HotSpot method for predicting coral bleaching from satellite data and of the Biorock method for regenerating marine ecoystems and eroding coastlines.


New Biorock™ coral reefs in Grenada

 

Nine new Biorock™ reefs powered by Mineral Accretion Technology™ were installed on June 25th and commisioned the next day by the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA), the Grenada Coral Reef Foundation (GCRF), and students and fishermen from the community at Gouyave, Grenada. In the following two weeks a similar number was installed at L’Esterre, Carriacou.

 

The reef structures, in shapes ranging from tunnels, domes, and a starfish, were built by Gouyave fishermen and students following a GCRA Biorock™ Training Workshop. They were installed on bare sandy areas on the reef north of the Gouyave Fishing Pier.

 Corals naturally broken by waves or by anchor damage, which would mostly die rolling around on sand or rock, will be rescued and transplanted onto them, and the area declared a national Fish Sanctuary and Marine Protected Area by the Grenada Government Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

 The project, managed by local non-profit organizations, is expected to restore the inshore coral reef fisheries and create a new tourism snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom boat attraction.

 The Grenada Coral Reef Foundation plans to use the site for expanded future projects and as a training center to hold workshops on superior methods of reef restoration for Grenada, the Grenadines, and the Eastern Caribbean.

 The project follows a detailed assessment of sites for coral reef restoration in Grenada and Carriacou by Dr. Thomas Goreau of GCRA, Roland Baldeo, then Chief Fisheries Officer of the Grenada Department of Fisheries, and Olando Harvey of the Grenada Marine Protected Areas program. It took two more years before funding could be found to implement the first advanced ecosystem-based, community-managed coral reef fisheries restoration projects in Grenada and Carriacou.

 Mineral Accretion Technology™ and Biorock™ reef regeneration techniques were invented and developed in Jamaica in the 1980s by the late architecture professor Wolf Hilbertz, and Dr. Thomas J. F. Goreau of the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, Jamaica. They are the only methods of marine habitat restoration that greatly speeds up settlement, growth, survival, and resistance of corals and all marine organisms to severe environmental stresses (like high temperature, mud, and pollution). Biorock™ reefs survive when all around them die from severe environmental stress events, and reefs are restored and severely eroded beaches regenerated at record rates even where there is no natural recovery.

 Funding for the Gouyave and Carriacou Biorock™ reef regeneration projects was provided by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC, the 5 Cs). Management of the projects will be done by the Gouyave and Sandy Cay/Oyster Bay marine protected areas, the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), the Grenada Organic Agriculture Movement (GOAM), and local fishing communities.

Please find the local press releases posted in NOW Grenada site in the links below: 

Gouyave Biorock™ Pilot Project to combat reef degradation

Biorock™ installation off Gouyave near completion

 

Contact: 

Roland A. Baldeo, Executive Director, Grenada Coral Reef Foundation
rolandbaldeo@gmail.com
Tel: 473 534 5796 (Mobile)
SKYPE rolandbaldeo


New Cozumel Coral Restoration project

Six spectacular new Biorock coral reefs have been installed in June by the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) and our local partners, Qualti SA, and the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program (CCRRP), in Cozumel, Mexico, the world’s most popular diving destination.

 

The new projects are a short swim from Sand Dollar Sports, and are illuminated at night with blue and cyan LED lighting for night time divers and snorkelers. Thousands of people swim at this site every day, located on the west shore of Cozumel, between the cruise ship piers.

The six new Biorock projects were funded by Minecraft, one of the world’s most popular computer games, in conjunction of their launch of new “Minecraft Underwater Worlds”.

Biorock reefs can be built in any size or shape, and greatly increase the settlement, growth, survival, and resistance of corals and all marine life to severe environmental stresses such as high temperature, sediment, and pollution. Biorock reefs survive when all around them die during severe stress events, and they grow back reefs and severely eroded beaches at record rates even where there is no natural recovery. They are therefore the last and only hope to save coral reefs from runaway global warming, global sea level rise, pollution, and human greed.

The six new Biorock reefs in Cozumel are being planted with broken coral fragments rescued from dying by the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program.

These reefs are shaped like Minecraft game characters, turtles, turtle eggs, and an Axolotl, Mexico’s most iconic wildlife species, a giant salamander that is nearly extinct from pollution and overharvesting for the aquarium trade and traditional purported medical uses. This was designed by high school students from Monterrey, Mexico.

Each structure is surrounded by Biorock coral reefs on all sides onto which the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program is transplanting severely injured broken corals rescued from tourist diving reefs.

Cozumel is the most popular diving destination in the world, but the coral reefs there, like those all around the world, have been steadily dying back because of global warming, algae overgrowth caused by sewage pollution, new diseases, physical damage caused by divers, and cruise ship propellers stirring up sediments.

The new Cozumel Biorock coral reef regeneration projects are a first step to bring back Mexico’s vanishing corals and fish populations and build a better and more sustainable future.

As the corals grow at exceptional rates, fishes and all forms of marine life will swarm around them. Coral transplantation has already started and will continue over the years to come. They will be spectacular at night, lit by blue and cyan LEDs, which attract swarms of fish and plankton.

GCRA, CCRRP, and Sand Dollar Sports will be posting many spectacular photographs and videos of these projects over the years to come. Please look at them on our web sites and better yet, come to Cozumel and see them for yourself! People who don’t see our spectacular coral reef restoration projects simply can’t believe that they are possible!

LINKS:
Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program
Qualti
Sand Dollar Sports


Agung Prana – In Memoriam

 

The Global Coral Reef Alliance is deeply saddened to report the loss of our great friend and leading Balinese partner, Agung Prana.

Bapak Agung Prana’s constant support for Biorock projects over 20 years made Bali the world center of coral reef regeneration.

The photo below shows a photo of Agung Prana held by his son, Bagus Mantra, surrounded by the leaders of the Biorock Bali team.

https://baliexpress.jawapos.com/baliexpress/read/2018/07/07/86403/pionirpariwisata-dan-pelestari-terumbu-karang-berpulang

(translated by Sandhi Raditya)

I Gusti Agung Prana, age 70, passed away Friday, July 6th, 2018 at the Wing International Sanglah Hospital Bali, after a long illness of cancer. Mr. Agung Prana, our beloved father was born July 12th, 1948 in Mengwi, Bali. He is survived by his wife, I Gusti Ayu Arini, one daughter, I Gusti Agung Desi Pertiwi, and two sons, I Gusti Bagus Mantra and I Gusti Ngurah Kertiasa.

He was a dedicated man who served his life for Bali Tourism since the late 60s. He has had a chance as Vice President of Bali Tourism Board and Chairman of the Association of Indonesia Travel Agencies (Bali Chapter). His last 3 decades was devoted to sustainable eco-tourism in Pemuteran, North Bali restoring degraded marine ecosystems through biorock reefs method. He was a founder of Karang Lestari Foundation and worked together with the spirit and culture of the local people, changing poor areas into a high visited tourist destination. This brought Pemuteran gained many international and national awards such as Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – Finalist (2018), The Equator Prize of UNDP (2017), Best Sustainable Tourism Development of Indonesia Tourism Ministry (2012), Tri Hita Karana Award (2011), PATA Gold Award (2005), and Best Underwater Ecotourism Project of SKAL International (2002).

On behalf of family members, Mr. Bagus Mantra apologized for all the mistakes of his father. He conveyed that funeral services (Plebon ceremony) will be conducted on Saturday, July 21st, 2018 at the Jero Gede Bakungan, Umabian, Peken Blayu Marga, Tabanan Regency. Friends may call at the funeral home Saturday morning from 7 to 9 a.m. or one hour prior to the services.

More details to follow.


Spectacular Biorock coral growth videos

 

Spectacular coral growth on Biorock is seen in the three videos linked below.

Pemuteran, Bali

This video shows Biorock reef growth in Pemuteran, Bali at a site that had been almost barren of corals and fishes when the Biorock projects began 15 years earlier.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

This video shows the installation of a new Biorock reef in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, and the growth of corals on it one year later:

Curaçao

This video shows phenomenal growth of staghorn corals in Curaçao shown by time lapse photos:

To see Biorock results for longer time scales (11 years) please look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx8TV9Kd0ns