Happy Winter Solstice!
Summary of 2016 GCRA Activities
2016 GCRA accomplishments in 13 countries are briefly summarized below by country in roughly chronological order:
Filming sustainable and regenerative tropical agriculture methods for full length documentary film by Marcy Cravat about the role of soil fertility restoration in reversing climate change. The film, entitled Dirt Rich, will be released in 2017.
Filming impacts of mangrove destruction for Dirt Rich. Monitoring and maintenance of Panamanian Biorock coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove restoration projects. Work with the Guna Indian communities and Government on developing Biorock shore protection projects to save their islands from global sea level rise (the Guna are now being forced to evacuate nearly a quarter of their villages on low lying islands because of increased flooding and erosion). Developing projects in soil fertility restoration to try to save the Guna sacred plants, which have nearly vanished due to a fungal disease.
Workshop on regenerative development with Fula cattle herders in Younoufere, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, focusing on methods to reverse desertification by improving soil fertility, soil water holding capacity, and sustainable production of new forage, fuel, and food crops.
Filming for full length documentary by Andrew Nisker on coral disease and algae smothering impacts caused by golf course chemical pollution on Bahamaian coral reefs, to be released in 2017. Sampling for long term study of chemical changes in algae that are pollution monitors and their relationship to golf course fertilizers, and of the sudden expansion of coral diseases and algae overgrowth that immediately followed golf course construction, the first place in the world these impacts have been documented.
Assessment of coral reef health in Grenada and Carriacou Marine Protected Areas with the Grenada Fisheries Department, and development of coral reef restoration strategies to reverse reef deterioration and improve coastal fisheries.
Training workshop in coral reef and fisheries restoration for artisanal fishing communities in Vanuatu, sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (the first funding GCRA has ever had from any international funding agency or government for reef restoration in 30 years). Biorock reefs were built in a village whose coral reef was dredged and destroyed in 1943 by the US military for an airport, and never recovered. Many other Vanuatu fishing villages are requesting similar training. They have tried all the conventional coral reef restoration methods, and found none of them worked. Lectures on local coral reef problems to the Vanuatu Environment Society and to the University of the South Pacific.
Keynote talk at Conference on Alternatives to Sea Walls, sponsored by the Negril Beach Committee and the Negril Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of local people attended due to concern at beach erosion and massive public opposition to a plan to build a seawall the length of the beach. The Government subsequently cancelled the proposal, and the community is requesting a Biorock coral reef and beach restoration project, because they remember the record growth rates of corals on Biorock projects in Negril 20 years ago. Continued assessment of long term changes in Negril coral reefs since before any development nearly 60 years ago.
Bali: Assessment of more than 100 Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Pemuteran with our local partners, Yayasan Karang Lestari and Biorock Indonesia, and new Biorock projects at Pejarakan, with the local village community, immediately after devastating bleaching caused by high temperature, attacks by coral-eating starfish, and exceptional wave damage. At Pejarakan the outer reefs, which had nearly 100% live coral cover in 2015, had suffered 95-99% mortality in 2016, due to heat stroke caused by global warming. Corals on the Biorock projects were exceptionally healthy. Survival of Pemuteran corals on Biorock were much higher than the surrounding reefs, but still most of the Biorock corals were lost because power was maintained only for about a third of the day instead of full time, so they were inadequately protected from record high temperatures, which lasted 24 hours a day for months. GCRA assisted the Pemuteran Biorock team in massive propagation of surviving corals, which will now be maintained under 24-hour power when bleaching hits again, as is expected in 2017. Due to incredible efforts by the local Biorock Centre team, the project has been largely restored. Preparation of a socioeconomic study that shows that the Biorock projects have restored the collapsed fisheries and turned Pemuteran from the poorest village in Bali to one of the most prosperous, due to the large number of people who come from all over the world to see the spectacular Biorock reefs. Assessment of algae and water quality problems, and of the soil erosion, water loss in floods, and pollution in Pemuteran that is impoverishing both the land and the sea, and proposals for whole watershed and coastal zone management to reverse them, based on those GCRA developed in Jamaica 20 years ago.
Sulawesi: Assessment of the results of Biorock beach restoration project at Pulau Gangga. A severely eroded beach was restored in just months during 2016 by natural sand growth caused by Biorock reefs, the beach grew in height by about 1.5 meters and in width by about 10 meters. Design and construction of equipment to measure beach profile changes rapidly and accurately. The Biorock reefs not only grew the beach back at record rates, they stimulated prolific growth of hard and soft corals, sea grass, barnacles, sea urchins, fish, and oyster populations.
Lombok: Assessment of more than 100 Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Gili Trawangan with the Gili Eco Trust. Coral mortality from high temperatures during 2016 on local coral reefs were around 95% or more. Similar mortality was seen on Biorock reefs that had not been maintained under power. Biorock projects under 24-hour power had complete coral survival and prolific growth with no visible mortality, comparing monitoring films and photographs of the same projects in early 2016 before bleaching, and in late 2016 afterwards. Biorock projects that had only partial or sporadic power had partial mortality, but not nearly as severe as Biorock reefs with no power at all. This shows, as found in the Maldives in 1998, and Thailand in 2005, that Biorock is the only method that protects corals from dying from heat stroke.
West Papua: Assessment of beach profiles before a Biorock beach restoration project planned for 2017 at Papua Paradise Resort, Raja Ampat, to restore the physically damaged reef whose loss has caused beach erosion. Assessment of physical, chemical, and oceanographic factors affecting Raja Ampat corals, an area widely regarded as the richest in marine biodiversity in the world.
Indonesia has around three quarters of all the Biorock structures in the world, and has developed a large community of Indonesians committed to restoring their coral reefs, who keep doing new projects wherever they can. Hundreds of Biorock structures have been made not only in Bali and Lombok, but at many locations in Sulawesi, Flores, Java, Sumbawa, and Ambon. New projects are being developed in Halmahera and Kalimantan. The last will focus on Biorock mangrove restoration of areas that were clear cut and destroyed. The Indonesian Biorock community is unique in the world for being so large and committed to regenerative development, and is very effectively organized by Prawita Tasya Karissa.
Quintana Roo. Keynote talk on impacts of pollution from captive dolphin wastes causing algae smothering of coral reefs at the Conference on Captive Dolphins in Mexico and the Caribbean. Filming and sampling of algae for chemical pollution analysis up-current, along, and down-current from four captive dolphin operations in Mexico, at sites affected by deep groundwater sewage pumping, and control sites. Maintenance and improvement of Biorock coral restoration project in Cozumel, and development of Biorock projects for restoring eroded beaches and stimulating growth of oysters at the only pearl farm in the Caribbean. A new Biorock project was installed in Cozumel.
Sonora. Plans continued for development of sustainable tidal current energy production in the Sea of Cortes with the Comca’ac (Seri) Indians in order to provide electricity, water, and Biorock mariculture of rare but valuable endemic species, and production of cements from the sea that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Commonwealth Secretariat Meeting on Regenerative Development to Reverse Global Warming, to develop a sustainable ecosystem and soil restoration strategy to reverse global warming and sea level rise, for 52 countries with 2.5 billion people (a third of the Earth’s population) to be announced in June 2017, to be followed by new initiatives at the 23d Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations to be held in Fiji in late 2017 . Lecture on saving coral reefs from global warming at the Oxford University Environmental Change Institute.
Talks on Sustainable Development for Small Island Developing States: the Challenge of Climate Change in the Sea, and on Innovative Energy Technologies and Environmental Restoration for Sustainable Development for Reversing Global Warming at the International Conference on Energy and Innovation for Sustainable Development. Meetings with Cuban researchers on solving local coral reef, beach erosion, and soil fertility problems.
Three new Biorock coral reef and fisheries restoration projects put under power. Many more will be started when the weather is better. The Saint Barthelemy projects will soon be the largest in the Caribbean, with a special focus on restoring rare endangered coral species. These projects, done with a local dive shop owner, Turenne Laplace, use very innovative designs aimed to increase fish populations as well as corals, and recycle conch shells that would otherwise be thrown away by fishermen. Assessment of a Biorock coral nursery built in 2015 with Dr. Nathalie Ledee and Eric Chaumont that now has prolific growth of the most important and endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals, and two kinds of natural hybrids between the two species, in a high wave energy location where the reef is dead, smothered with algae, and rapidly eroding. Development of plans to expand the project to restore the major tourism beach on the island, where millions have been spent pumping sand that washed away.
Florida: The only Biorock coral reef restoration project in the USA was terminated for political reasons by the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea with no consultation as soon as the three-year State-mandated monitoring period ended. They literally pulled the plug on the project by cutting the cables and removing the solar power buoys GCRA and our local partners Vone Research, had designed and built at our own expense. It took 5 years to get permission to restore corals in Florida, two more years after they were installed before the State would allow naturally broken corals to be rescued, and then permission was refused for the most important coral staghorn and elkhorn corals, unusually abundant in the area, which we were not allowed to rescue even though Biorock produces record growth rates of these species, so we were forced to watch them steadily die from pollution and disease after being broken by storms due to bureaucratic incompetence. The 3-year monitoring of the project showed rapid coral growth and high fish populations, an oasis in a desert of dying corals. As soon as they removed our solar power buoys the corals began to die like the surrounding reef.
New York: 9 years of Biorock oyster and salt marsh restoration projects at Superfund Toxic Waste site in New York City, conducted without funding, continued to show prolific growth of salt marsh and oysters in a severely polluted area, the most successful example of restoration of either known. New York City now proposes to destroy our restoration projects with a huge storm drain to flush polluted water right onto them. The local community is fighting to save them.
California: Oyster, salt marsh, and sea grass restoration projects were started with the Romberg Research Center of San Francisco State University, sponsored by Save our Seas, Save Our Oceans. The goal is to restore these severely damaged ecosystems and the fisheries that depend on them, and to reverse the severe erosion of salt marshes now underway around San Francisco Bay.
Massachusetts: Soil fertility research projects using rock powders and biochar were conducted with Remineralize The Earth, a non-profit group promoting the use of natural materials as slow-release fertilizers that last for many decades. Talks on the oceans, global warming, and the carbon cycle, and on large scale marine ecosystem restoration, were presented at the Conference on Restoring Oceans, Restoring Climate at the Harvard University Museum of Natural History, sponsored by Biodiversity for a Livable Climate. A talk on restoring soils to reverse global warming in time to prevent runaway climate change was presented at the World Soil Day Event in Harvard Square sponsored by Soil4Climate, Green Cambridge, and the Soil Carbon Alliance.
GCRA continued to advise many more individuals and groups all over the world regarding solution of their local problems, and to make important advances in Biorock technology and new applications. Only projects that resulted in direct action during 2016 are listed above.