Biorock® Coral Reef Restoration and Shore Protection Projects in Majuro, Republic Of The Marshall Islands: Preliminary Report

Biorock® Coral Reef Restoration and Shore Protection Projects
in Majuro, Republic Of The Marshall Islands: Preliminary Report

Thomas J. Goreau
Erik Hagberg
Doan Trevor
Michael Trevor
September 27 2007

The Marshall Islands are critically dependent on the health of their coral reefs: every rock and sand grain on the islands are the remains of coral reef organisms. Only actively growing coral reefs can protect the islands against ocean waves and global sea level rise, and provide fish to feed the people. These crucial services are rapidly deteriorating because global warming is bleaching and killing corals, while also accelerating the spread and virulence of coral-killing diseases. As a result every atoll island has a serious erosion problem, which will get much worse as global sea level rise and storm intensity accelerate, unless the reefs that protect the islands can be grown back. The solutions now being used to protect the shoreline are both costly and ineffective. In order to demonstrate practical solutions to these problems we started three pilot coral reef restoration projects and one pilot shore protection project in Majuro using Biorock®® Technology in early 2007.

Biorock® technology uses safe low voltage direct electrical current, provided by solar panels, windmills, ocean current turbines, or chargers, to grow solid limestone structures of any size or shape on top of steel construction elements. The limestone rock is typically grown at up to an inch a year, and can be up to three times harder as ordinary concrete. Biorock® structures grow constantly in strength, and are cheap oakley self repairing: any damage grows back preferentially. This makes them uniquely suited as frameworks to restore coral reefs and fisheries, and to grow breakwaters for shore protection from erosion. Coral fragments transplanted onto them grow typically 3-5 times faster than normal, and survive extreme stress, such as from abnormally high temperatures, 16-50 times more than surrounding coral reefs. They have very high rates of baby coral settlement and quickly build up dense populations of reef fish. Because they can be built with many layers of holes of any size or shape, and because corals can be elevated above the bottom and get more light and food, they can support much denser fish populations than even natural reefs. In the Maldives, one of the lowest lying atoll countries in the world, Biorock® reefs grown in front of severely eroding beaches turned them into 50 feet of beach growth in a few years.

Because these breakwaters slow waves passing through them they do not cause scouring of sand like conventional walls that reflect waves. Biorock® breakwaters cost a fraction of rock or cement or gabion seawalls, and create ecotourism resources and fish habitat, making them far superior to conventional methods. Due to the huge untapped tidal current resources of the Marshall Islands, many islands could be protected using local energy resources, but solar and wind energy can also be used. Due to the severe erosion of all Marshallese islands, and the deterioration of the coral reefs, especially in Majuro, these methods are critically needed to protect the islands from rising global temperatures and sea levels.

Our projects are small demonstration projects meant to show the potential of the technology to protect the Marshall Island’s marine and land resources from global climate change if used on a large scale. These projects were carried out in collaboration between the Global Coral Reef Alliance (an international non- governmental non-profit organization for research, protection, and sustainable management of coral reefs), Pacfic Aquaculture Cooperatives – RMI (a locally registered company developing the Marshall Islands’ sustainable mariculture resources), and RRE Enterprises (a Marshallese company), with the support of local landowners of Enemanit Island. This report describes the pilot projects that were built in May 2007, and shown in photographs taken in June and August. That is to say cheap oakley after only a few months. If power is maintained the corals will grow very rapidly and attract many more fish in the future.

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