Coral Arks, Climate Strategy: Saving coral reefs in the short and long term


May 7 2017. The Global Coral Reef Alliance / Soil Carbon Alliance urgently seeks funding during 2017 to support leadership in Geotherapy: global ecosystem regenerative development to reverse climate change, and for the Biorock Electric Reef Coral Ark Program with Indigenous Peoples (below).


Coral reefs are the most sensitive ecosystem to global warming and will be the first to become functionally extinct due to excess atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, imminently threatening the major marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline resources of over 100 countries. The threat was fully understood by 1990, but was deliberately ignored for nearly 30 years by governments unwilling to solve the global climate change problem. As the result the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a death sentence for coral reefs. Restoration of lost reefs is a life and death matter for the Small Island Developing States, and especially the atoll nations.
Massive coral mortality from heat shock took place across the globe in 2015 and 2016, record hot years, at precisely the temperatures forecast nearly 30 years ago by the Goreau-Hayes satellite sea surface temperature HotSpot method. 2017 will probably be even hotter, and many of the few Great Barrier Reef corals that survived the severe 2016 bleaching have bleached and died unusually early in 2017. Many new more regions will bleach this year as the equatorial and northern regions warm up. Since hotter years will certainly follow, we now have only a few years left to protect the last of the most critically threatened natural resource of the ocean.
Even if all fossil fuel use stops today, we will still face millions of years of high temperature, sea level, and CO2, continuing long after IPCC’s model projection time horizons of 50 or 100 years, condemning future generations to extinction of coral reefs and flooding of low lying coasts where billions of people live, unless CO2 is urgently reduced to preindustrial levels.
Biorock Coral Arks are the only way known to save corals from high temperature stress during the interim period until regenerative development strategies can reverse CO2 increase. During 2016 almost all the corals on Biorock Coral Arks in Indonesia survived the bleaching mortality of more than 95% of corals on nearby reefs, and they grew back a severely eroded beach naturally in just months. Indonesian fishing villages with Biorock reef projects have not only restored their fisheries, they have been transformed from the poorest villages on their island to some of the most prosperous, because so many tourists come from all over the world to swim over their spectacular Biorock corals and fish.

An immediate crash program is needed NOW to restore our damaged reefs using methods that 1) greatly increase coral growth rates, and 2) greatly increase coral survival from high temperature stress, and 3) work directly with coral reef communities. Biorock technology is the only method that does so, and can be powered on any scale by developing our vast but untapped clean and sustainable wave, wind, solar, and ocean current energy. Biorock methods greatly increase coral settlement, increase coral growth rates 2-6 times, prevent coral death after bleaching from heat shock, speed up coral recovery, and result in much higher survival, up to 50 times higher (5,000%) in the worst cases.
All marine organisms and ecosystems, not only corals, benefit from Biorock electric fields because they directly stimulate natural biochemical energy production. Biorock reefs greatly increase fish populations, create new sustainable mariculture opportunities, and build growing, self-repairing reefs of any size or shape that turn severely eroding low island beaches into growing ones naturally in just months, allowing them to grow despite global sea level rise. All other methods of coral reef restoration and shore protection will eventually fail catastrophically under global warming and global sea level rise.
In order to prevent catastrophic loss of fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity in the coming years a massive program of coral reef restoration is needed in all the coral reef countries, and especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Biorock Coral Arks are our last hope to maintain coral reef ecosystem services until global warming is reversed. There is no time to waste: failure means condemning around a billion people to become climate refugees.This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to

This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to long-term restoration of their immediate environment can do so. Only local people are seriously dedicated to restoring their own fisheries, shorelines, and natural resources over the generations that will be needed until global warming can be brought under control. To be truly effective, all funding should be put directly into community- based environmental management initiatives supporting local efforts to restore and manage the resources they have lost, not to foreign or even national institutions, who will waste the money on bureaucracies, foreign consultants, and big international NGOs (BINGOs).

They should specifically NOT be under the control of those programs funded and controlled by the rich countries, which have spent 40 years systematically denying the massive declines of reefs that were already long known in the SIDS, denying their clearly proven linkages to global warming, and actively preventing any effective action to restore coral reefs with fiction about “resilience”. These groups are now attempting to control all reef funding, and if they succeed they will waste all the money by repeating their past failures.

GCRA Community-managed Coral Ark projects will be designed and built working directly with indigenous fishing communities who have already shown they want to act to restore their marine resources, and whose trust we have won through years, decades, or generations working with them on their coral reefs. These sites will be used to train other community-based environmental management groups who want to restore their coral reefs, fisheries, and beaches in their regions. Our first priorities are:

Jamaica is where coral reef diving research first began and where the decline of coral reefs, and all their causes, were first documented and understood. Jamaica is also where Biorock electric coral reef restoration was invented by GCRA researchers Wolf Hilbertz and TG 30 years ago, but unfortunately there have been no Biorock projects in Jamaica for 25 years. We have worked closely with Jamaican fishermen documenting changes on the reefs for 65 year., TG, a native speaker of Jamaican patois, wrote the integrated whole watershed and coastal zone management plans for both ends of Jamaica. We will focus on coral reef and fisheries restoration in Westmoreland, where the fishermen still remember the amazing coral growth and fish and lobster populations attracted to solar powered Biorock reefs we built with them 25 years ago. The former reef is now a barren wasteland, and the locals want to restore their collapsed reefs and fisheries.

The Guna Indians of Panama are lobster divers who live on 50 low islands, a quarter of which they are now abandoning due to erosion caused by global sea level rise. They are already global warming refugees! Our work there focuses on restoring coral reef growth to restore the lobster and fish populations, and growing Biorock shore protection reefs to save their islands from erosion and grow new islands. The Guna are a remarkable traditional culture that never lost their independence, have preserved all their cultural and political institutions, yet greatly value education and modern knowledge. Although TG is of Ngobe Indian descent (the largest and poorest indigenous community in Panama), his family have worked closely with the Gunas for generations, and he has complete authorization by the Guna Government to do environmental restoration projects there, something no other outsider has. The local will is there, but funding is nonexistent for independent Indigenous communities.

The Comca’ac (Seri) Indians of the Sea of Cortes are the smallest and most remarkable Indigenous culture of Mexico. They survived for hundreds of years in barren desert islands by diving for seafood, in particular, several unusual endemic species now on the verge of extinction. TG dived with them to understand the growth conditions of their unique biological resources and is working with them to develop their remarkable tidal energy resources to produce electricity, fresh water, Biorock building materials that consume CO2 from the atmosphere, and much more productive Biorock mariculture of their threatened native species.

Indonesia has the world’s largest, richest, and most biodiverse coral reefs, yet around 95% have been badly damaged. Our Indonesian team has built around 300 Biorock coral reef restoration projects in many islands of Indonesia, including Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi, Sumbawa, Java, and Ambon. These have created prosperous ecotourism communities, restored fisheries, preserved coral reefs from dying from global warming, grown back severely eroded beaches in months, and won many international environmental awards, including the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development and the Special UN Development Programme Special Award for Oceans and Coastal Management. The Biorock Indonesia team is developing plans for large Biorock mangrove restoration projects in areas destroyed for shrimp farms that will become Orang Utan habitat in Kalimantan (Borneo) as well as major mangrove peat carbon sinks, restoring areas damaged by mining in Sulawesi and Halmahera, and restoring eroded beaches in Raja Ampat, West Papua. We have trained hundreds of Indonesian students in the new restoration methods, but there is no funding for them to help the fishing communities all across this nation of 17,000 islands and 250 million people that are asking for training to also re-grow their reefs, fisheries, and shorelines as the first communities we trained have done.

In Vanuatu, TG trained a fishing community to build a dozen Biorock reefs to restore their own coral reefs, which were dynamited, dredged, turned into an airstrip by the US military in 1943, and never recovered. Fishing villages all around Vanuatu, concerned about their reefs, have tried all other methods of coral reef restoration, and found that they all failed. Now, having seen the results of the Biorock pilot projects, they all want training too to develop their own community reef fisheries mariculture projects. Their eagerness to learn methods to be more productive and less destructive is incredible, and we are delighted to help them!

TG’s family has worked with local Aboriginal communities to document the health of their corals on the Great Barrier Reef for generations, and have photos of the same reefs from 1927, 1950, 1967, and 1998. We need to repeat these photos and videos again, now that most of the corals have died from global warming in 2017, exactly as we had predicted would happen. We will work directly with the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Daintree Forest, owners of Low Isle, where we stayed and photographed each time, to restore their dead coral reefs and establish their Sea Rights to all of their territory, underwater as well as above. TG is a hereditary member the Dhuwa Yolngu Aboriginals of Arnhem Land, the oldest culture in Australia, which has preserved knowledge of all the places they lived in the last 50,000 years, including those drowned by the sea after the last Ice Age.


GCRA is helping The Commonwealth Secretariat (CS), 52 countries with 2.5 billion people, a third of the Earth’s population, develop a strategy of Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change, for presentation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December. This aims to stabilize CO2 at pre-industrial levels in decades, to prevent runaway climate change impacts. Our Geotherapy book and recent FAO papers on factors controlling rates of regenerative drawdown and long-term storage of CO2 in soils provide the scientific basis of the strategy. We have also developed superior Biorock electric restoration methods for mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, whose peat soils are the most cost-effective carbon sinks on the planet.
There won’t be any operational funding for strategy development or implementation until after approval by the Commonwealth Secretariat in June, and UNFCCC in December, but the CS has asked TG to advise them on marine issues and present the scientific foundations of the strategy to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon in March 2017 in Rome, the Society for Ecological Restoration Conference in Brazil in August, and at UNFCCC.
It will also be very important to make other such strategically critical presentations where needed to help support the strategy development in the coming months, especially with the majority of the Commonwealth nations, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific, Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. GCRA has worked directly on coral reef issues in almost every single SIDS in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, and has close contacts with may SIDS environmental groups and governments, starting with Jamaica, where GCRA originated. GCRA is therefore extremely familiar with the local environmental management problems and can identify the specific locations that would most benefit from regenerative development strategies in each of these countries.


GCRA, and its partner, the Soil Carbon Alliance, seek funding to complete three documentary films, and books, of critical importance to climate strategies:
DIRT RICH by Marcelina Cravat, Passelande Films, Berkeley. Shows how soil carbon is being increased by many methods around the world, and how it can reverse global climate change. Filming is already complete, and funding is needed for final editing and production phases, including soundtrack, narrators, promotion, etc. We have previously collaborated on ANGEL AZUL, about underwater art, tourism, coral reefs, dolphins, algae, and sewage in Cancun.
CORAL GHOSTS by Andrew Nisker, Take Action Films, Toronto. The history of coral reefs, the most climatically threatened ecosystem, from life to death, and hopefully to regeneration. Funding is needed for filming at critical sites around the world, in the Great Barrier Reef, Jamaica, Bahamas, Indonesia, Micronesia, Panama, the Red Sea, and others to compare with our underwater photograph collection, the world’s largest and oldest, in order to understand the causes of the changes at each reef, and show how to reverse them. We will focus on training local Indigenous fishing communities to restore their coral reefs and fisheries, especially the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Great Barrier Reef. We have previously collaborated on GROUND WARS, in production for The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, on health and environmental impacts of golf course chemicals on coral reef and human health.

SCIENCES OF LIFE, TECHNOLOGIES OF DEATH: THE 1970 MIT STUDENT STRIKE AGAINST WEAPONS RESEARCH AND THE MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN SCIENCE by Tom Goreau & Videosphere, Cambridge, MA. MIT students in 1970 went on strike specifically over the issue of weapons research on campus, at a time when all other campuses were focused on the Viet Nam War. MIT succeeded in stifling debate on the issue by expelling the student leaders, but the undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty, and administration led the formation of many organizations focused on the social responsibility of science and engineering. The moral issues raised nearly 50 years ago are just as relevant today in the era of mass bombing and global warming, but have been effectively ignored since 1970. The various points of view of the many participants from all sides are being explored by interviews with the surviving leaders of the 1970 events on all sides.

GCRA/SCA is a global non-profit network of volunteers working with essentially no funding on direct action projects with local communities to protect and manage coral reefs, and all other ecosystems, all around the globe. For more than 25 years GCRA has provided cutting edge research on community-based ecosystem restoration and management in developing countries and indigenous communities, the impacts of global climate change on ecosystems, and helped invent important new technologies to reverse them and regenerate the ecosystem services providing our planetary life support systems, founded on restoration of natural biogeochemical recycling processes.

GCRA activities in 2016 are briefly summarized in:

GCRA planned programs for 2017 are briefly outlined in:

GCRA projects with Indigenous Peoples are summarized in:

For more information contact Thomas J. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance, at

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