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!
 
BIOROCK AMBON, November 18 2018, photos by Komang Astika and Sandhi Raditya
Acropora, Merulina, and Pocillipora

 

Euphyllia ancora
Acropora
Acropora
Acropora

 

Acropora

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 electrical fields inhibit shark biting

Article by Diana Crow published on April 5th 2018 in the Sierra Club magazine
Original article @ sierraclub.org.

Electric Shark Boogaloo

Is there such a thing as an electric fence, but for sharks?

PHOTO BY ISTOCK | WHITCOMB RD

BY DIANA CROW | APR 5 2018

Marine biologist Marcella Pomárico Uchôa stood at the edge of a small boat in the Bimini region in the Bahamas, watching a floating piece of white PVC pipe, rigged with wires and a bag of minced meat, bob up and down with the waves. It wasn’t long before the sharks arrived.

The sharks weren’t shy about their interest in the minced meat. They charged toward it at full-speed, only to swerve away at the last moment. In contrast, the Bermuda chubs and bar jacks swam right up to the rig and grabbed a snack without hesitation. Something was changing the sharks’ behavior.

The two species Uchôa’s study focused on—bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi)—can sense electric fields in the water. Their electrosensory organs—called the ampullae of lorenzini—are sensitive enough to detect the electric activity in their prey’s nervous systems, allowing sharks to lunge at their prey blind.

As Uchôa and her colleagues reported in the journal Animal Biology last year, the wire and PVC rig emitted a low voltage electric current that seemed to befuddle the two species of shark. Ordinary fish—without an electromagnetic sixth sense—didn’t seem to notice the electricity at all.

As far as the observers on the boat could tell, the sharks weren’t hurt by the electric field. “Sharks just avoid them because it’s confusing,” explains the study’s co-author Thomas Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, an organization that restores coral reefs by building artificial electric reefs.

This confusion could open up new markets for Goreau’s coral reef restoration business. Back in 1987, Goureau was writing coastal zone management plans for hotels and fisheries in Jamaica when he met an architect and inventor named Wolf Hilbertz. Hilbertz had been developing construction materials for underwater buildings when he found that electrically charged metal attracts dissolved minerals in seawater. Over time, these minerals build up, forming a material similar to concrete–or to the calcium carbonate of coral reefs.

The two began designing synthetic electric reefs—which they called “Biorocks”—meant to slow coastal erosion and provide habitat for coral reef species in areas that had seen massive coral reef damage. About 400 were installed in over a dozen countries including off the coast of Panama, the Saya de Malha bank near the island nation of Seychelles, and Gili Trawangan in Indonesia. Most are close to shorelines and draw from the nearby islands’ power grids, but Goreau and his colleagues have been experimenting with using renewable power sources such as solar panels and wave power generation.

In thirty years, Goreau had never seen a predatory shark hanging out near a Biorock reef. Then, while giving a talk at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, he met Uchôa, who was a marine science grad student at the time. The two began looking into whether Goreau’s experience could be backed up by real-world experiments, and whether Biorocks could function sort of like underwater electric fences, steering sharks away from popular diving areas.

Shark bait experiment in progress. Photo courtesy of Marcella Pomárico Uchôa.

Using sharks’ electromagnetic sense to direct shark traffic away from humans isn’t a new idea. Several electricity-emitting “shark-repelling”products–most of them wearable or attachable to surf boards—are already on the market. Whether these electromagnetic shark deterrents actually work is another question. “It depends on what you mean by working,” says marine biologist Charlie Huveneers of Flinders University in Australia. “If you’re asking whether they would stop or protect people all of the time in 100% of situations, then no, they don’t work. If you’re asking whether they have an effect on the behavior of sharks, then yes, they do work.”

Shark deterrent field tests by academic marine biologists—who are independent of the deterrent-making companies—have found that those effects can vary quite a bit. Sometimes, the sharks seem to hesitate in the presence of an electric field but go in for the kill anyway. Sometimes, they don’t go for the bait but stay within a few meters of the boat. The effects differ between species, and a few people have even been bitten while wearing electromagnetic shark “deterrents”.

Ideally, says says shark biologist Ryan Kempster of the University of Western Australia, the electrical field produced by a shark deterrent should be tailored specifically to the size and species of the shark in question, because every species detects and responds differently to electric fields of varying strengths and frequencies.

“The problem with shark deterrents,” adds says Huveneers, “is that there’s no real regulation in terms of what the deterrents need to be able to do to be called ‘deterrent’. And manufacturers can make a lot of claims about the device that they’re selling without ensuring the veracity of those claims,”

If Biorocks work to keep sharks away from beaches that are popular with divers, such a scenario could be beneficial to sharks, since they are more likely to be hurt or killed by humans than the other way around. But Goreau freely admits that more research is needed. The PVC pipe rig in Uchôa’s experiment emitted an electric field very similar to that of a Biorock reef but not identical. In the majority of the experiments, sharks didn’t swerve from the PVC pipe rig until they were just a few feet away from the reef, which could mean that Biorock placement would have to be strategic to prevent sharks from swimming through areas that the field doesn’t reach to.

Goreau admits that it’s possible that no one has seen large predatory sharks swimming around Biorock reefs simply because there are so few large sharks left worldwide. Rays and nurse sharks, which can also sense electricity, live on and near Biorocks and do not appear to be affected by the Biorocks’ electric fields. It is possible, though, that the electrical field could have some effect on the behavior of sharks, rays, and skates that is not readily apparent. That alone is reason to be cautious, according to Uchôa.

In the meantime, Goreau remains excited. Students monitoring the Biorock reefs in Indonesia have noticed large numbers of young fish swimming around the artificial reefs. Because sharks, rays, and skates are the only fish known to have electrosense, this raises the question of what is bringing them there. “We do get enormous recruitment of larval fish when the power is on, much more so than when the power is off,” says Goreau. “There’s an enormous need to expand this work.”


We Have Already Exceeded the Upper Temperature Limit for Coral Reef Ecosystems, Which are Dying at Today’s CO2 Levels

GCRA WHITE PAPER
April 2, 2018

 
Talanoa White Paper, GCRA 2018

2018 Talanoa Dialogue Platform

We Have Already Exceeded the Upper Temperature Limit for Coral Reef Ecosystems, Which are Dying at Today’s CO2 Levels

Thomas J. F. Goreau, Raymond L. Hayes, & Ernest Williams
 

THE PROBLEM
We are already beyond the upper temperature tolerance for coral reef ecosystems, and they can stand no further warming. Coral reef ecosystems will soon vanish unless atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rapidly reduced to pre-industrial levels.

Most corals in the world died from heat shock after the 1980s, when the world passed the tipping point temperature threshold for mass coral bleaching. Global warming heat waves are now killing corals so rapidly that 95-99% of corals (some thousands of years old) in pristine reefs can die in just days or weeks. Further warming will be a death sentence for coral reefs, the most biodiverse and productive of marine ecosystems. The press widely reports “scientists agree that 2º C, or 1.5º C warming is acceptable”, ignoring the ecological disaster that has already happened, and tacitly condemning coral reefs to death as the first ecosystem to be driven to extinction from fossil fuel greenhouse gas (GHG) caused global warming. This will severely damage marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, shore protection, and beach sand supply of over 100 countries, and sentence billions of people to lose their homes from future coastal flooding.

Coral reef bleaching is long known to be a general response to environmental stresses, but almost all coral bleaching is caused by high temperature heat shock. Temperatures above normal body temperature (37˚C) trigger human heat stress responses. Muscle cramps and excessive sweating are symptoms. If not relieved, heat exhaustion, and then heat stroke follow. Untreated heat stroke leads to failure of physiological mechanisms and death. Similarly, heat-shocked bleached coral (typically in water temperatures above 29.4˚C), is unable to defend itself against thermal stress. Coral reef bleaching, when symbiotic algae and host tissues dissociate, can be reversed if stress is quickly relieved. But any further rise in temperature or prolonged heat exposure leads irreversibly to death.

Coral bleaching has been known for a hundred years, but until the 1980s, it was only seen on small scales in tide pools cut off from water circulation at low tide, or in response to hurricane sediment and fresh water flooding. In 1918, and again in 1928, it was found that only around 1o C warming caused coral bleaching, and a little more killed them. These limits have not changed. When the first mass regional bleaching events took place in 1982-1983, almost all corals in the East Pacific (Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Galapagos) died. Peter Glynn, who that year published the first book on Galapagos and East Pacific corals, studied every possible potential cause, and found only high temperature could explain it. Many thought that this was simply some peculiar regional coral sensitivity, because if all corals were really so close to their upper limit, why hadn’t it happened before due to natural fluctuations? Within a few years mass coral reef bleaching across the Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Oceans made it clear that the global temperature tipping point world-wide had been suddenly passed in the 1980s.

Goreau and Hayes proposed the HotSpot method for predicting mass coral reef bleaching events from satellite sea surface temperature data (SST) in the late 1980s. They, Ernest Williams, Lucy Bunkley- Williams, and Peter Glynn pointed out that there had been NO regional mass coral bleaching events ever seen anywhere before 1982, but mass bleaching suddenly began and happened worldwide nearly every year since. They emphasized that continued warming would destroy coral reef ecosystems. Unfortunately, their predictions, widely ridiculed as alarmist at the time, have come true. Governments ignored scientific evidence of global warming, claiming that reefs were “resilient” and would “bounce right back”, funding research to blame anything else and those telling them what they wanted to hear.

The temperature thresholds for mass coral bleaching determined in the 1980s have not changed since. Bleaching events have gotten worse and more frequent, so dive shops now regard them as “normal” and no longer report bleaching, because it is “bad for business”. There has been no sign of thermal adaptation, corals still bleach at the same temperatures, but every year there are less left to bleach. Reef ecosystem function, structure, and biodiversity are collapsing, resulting in reefs with only a few species of “weedy” corals left. These can stand slightly higher temperatures, but even their limits are now being exceeded, and more frequently with further global warming, so they too will vanish. Even corals that have luckily survived bleaching events have been badly weakened by worldwide outbreaks of new coral diseases, which intensify during high temperature events, and often follow beaching events. For coral reefs to survive global warming must be rapidly reversed.

In 1992, before the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in Rio de Janeiro, the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) warned Ambassadors of the Association of Small Island States that agreeing to further increases in temperature was a suicide pact, that if prompt and deliberate measures were not taken to stop global warming right away most of the corals in the world would die from high temperature in the next 20 years. That is exactly what has happened. Yet governments and funding agencies continue to ignore that coral reefs are the most sensitive and vulnerable of all ecosystems to high temperature and pollution, wasting millions on propaganda about “managing” “resilient” reefs, instead of dealing with the root causes: GHGs from fossil fuels and land degradation.

Ocean acidification was understood long before the 1970s. Acidification is already a problem for cold and deep-water life, but NOT yet for tropical marine ecosystems. Because of the inverse relation between CO2 solubility and temperature, polar water holds three times more CO2 than equatorial water. Acidification is not a factor in death of corals, which recover from it. Corals are already dying worldwide at current temperatures but every press article about ocean acidification shows photographs of corals bleached by high temperatures, even though acidification neither kills corals nor does it bleach them! Skeletons of living corals can be completely dissolved in acid, but the coral tissue retains its color, and will survive and grow a new skeleton when put in normal seawater. Corals will need to use more energy to grow skeletons in acidic seawater, but acidification is not the existential threat to tropical coral survival widely and incorrectly claimed, although it is a real threat to deep sea cold water reefs. Ignoring the fact that coral reefs are already at their upper-temperature limit, and focusing on acidification problems for tropical coral reefs is a dangerously irresponsible and politically-motivated red herring. If CO2 is reduced in time to stop global warming from killing corals all global acidification problems are automatically solved. But focusing only on stopping acidification impacts on reefs guarantees corals will die sooner from heat stroke, and decades to centuries later the reefs made of their long-dead skeletons will eventually dissolve!

An author of this paper (TG) was Senior Scientific Affairs Officer for Global Climate Change and Biodiversity at the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development in 1989 when the first draft of the UNFCCC was being prepared, prior to its distribution to governments. He inserted into the draft that one of the purposes of the Convention was to protect Earth’s most climatically-sensitive ecosystems, that these should be monitored for signs of dangerous climate change impacts, that there should be a trigger mechanism to reduce GHG emissions if climate damage was found, and that ALL GHG sources and sinks should be monitored. To force a politically acceptable compromise, all wording making these points were removed and replaced with vague subjective phrases like “acceptable warming.” The result of this fudged compromise is the perilous deterioration that ice caps and coral reefs have now reached. Governments who made this compromise failed their basic duty to protect their people, with the small island nations being the first and worst victims. This failure must not be repeated.

Governments are fooling themselves about how severe runaway climate change will be and how long it will last. IPCC projections focus on short-term responses over decades to centuries, ignoring long-term effects. The consequences are well known to climate scientists, but were not included because IPCC’s mandate from Governments reflects political needs, not scientific priorities. The inertia of the climate system inevitably caused by the fact that it takes 1500 years for the ocean to mix is ignored. Since deep ocean waters has been chilled by polar ice caps and are now just above freezing, until the deep sea warms up the full warming will not be felt at Earth’s surface. Heat is flowing down into the deep cold ocean, but surface temperatures have a built-in time lag response of thousands of years after atmosphere GHGs increase. Sea level has even longer time lags due to slow melting of the polar ice caps, which will continue for thousands of years, but there could be sudden increases under extreme warming when whole glaciers, lubricated underneath by meltwater, slide into the sea. Three rapid increases of 6.5, 7.5, and 13.5 meters are documented in fossil coral reefs during rapid ice melting at the end of the last Ice Age.

Nearly a million years of climate data from Antarctic ice cores clearly show that present atmospheric CO2 concentration of 400 ppm could lead to ultimate steady-state response of global temperatures around 17 C higher than now, and sea levels around 23 meters higher, many times more than IPCCC’s projections (see the data figures below). These effects will persist for hundreds of thousands of years unless GHG concentrations are rapidly reduced to pre-industrial levels. Eventually high temperatures and rotting marine life will remove oxygen from the water, turning the ocean into a dead zone, stinking with the rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide. Organic matter will then pile up in deep ocean sediments, eventually removing the excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Every time this happened in the geological past, coral reef ecosystems went extinct for millions of years until new reef-building corals could evolve. To avoid the inevitable long-term impacts of runaway climate change we must urgently take scientifically-sound action to reduce GHGs to pre-industrial levels now.

2018 Talanoa Dialogue Platform, GCRA White Paper
CO2, temperature, and sea level over the last 800,000 years from Antarctic Ice cores suggest the steady state temperature and sea level for today’s CO2 is 17 Celsius and 23 meters higher. Data from Rohling (2008), annotated by Goreau (2014).
2018 Talanoa Dialogue Platform, GCRA White Paper
The last time temperature was 1-2º C warmer, sea level was 7 meters higher, crocodiles and hippopotamuses lived in London, England, yet CO2 was 270 ppm, one third lower than today (Goreau 2014)

THE SOLUTIONS
Scientifically-sound solutions to save coral reefs are well established but are not being used on the scale needed, due to lack of funding. It has been known for more than 200 years that corals can be propagated by fragmentation, and that these methods only work when water quality is excellent. All the corals die when the water becomes too hot, muddy, or polluted. The only methods that will work in the future to maintain coral populations, while temperature and pollution are accelerating globally, are new methods that greatly increase coral settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to stress.

Because it directly stimulates the natural energy-generating mechanisms of all forms of life, GCRA’s Biorock electrical reef regeneration technology is the only method known that can grow Coral Arks to save species from extinction. Other coral restoration methods work only as long as it never gets too hot, muddy, or polluted, but the corals die from heat stroke when their temperature limits are exceeded, while most Biorock reef corals survive. The Biorock method keeps entire reefs alive when they would die, providing high coral survival when 95-99% of surrounding reef corals bleach and die from heat shock. It also grows back dead reefs and severely eroded beaches at record rates in places where there has been no natural recovery. Since there is no funding for serious reef restoration or shore protection anywhere in the world it is now being used only on a symbolic scale. The method uses Safe Extremely Low Voltage (SELV) direct current (DC) trickle charges that can be provided by energy of the sun, winds, waves, and ocean currents. It works for all marine ecosystems, coral reefs, oyster and mussel reefs, fisheries habitat, seagrasses, salt marshes, and mangroves. Severely eroded beaches recovered naturally just months after wave-resistant limestone reefs were grown in front of them. Because these reefs can be grown in any size or shape, increase growth and survival of all marine organisms, and since habitat can be designed for specific needs of different fish and shellfish, they provide a new paradigm for highly productive and sustainable multi-species mariculture of entire complex ecosystems that produce their own food.

Further human-caused warming tragically means that coral reefs may only survive in the long run on electrical life-support systems until GHGs and temperatures are reduced to near pre-industrial levels, but this is the only interim alternative remaining to preserve the world’s most valuable economic and environmental ecosystem services until pre-industrial GHG levels can be achieved. Nearly 60% of all global ecosystem service economic losses are from coral reef degradation. Reefs occupy less than 0.1% of the ocean so they suffer natural ecosystem service economic losses around a thousand times the global average. This is largely borne by small island nations, the first and worst victims of a crisis they did not create. Unfortunately, only reefs that can be powered can be saved, but if we don’t save all we can, these may be all we have left, so Biorock Coral Arks need to be greatly expanded to save species. Around 80% of all genera and nearly half the species of tropical reef corals are growing on around 500 Biorock reefs in some 40 countries, around 400 reefs in Indonesia, with the world’s largest and most biodiverse coral reefs.

The long-term solutions are also known. Humanity must regenerate the natural biological mechanisms that regulate atmospheric GHGs and climate by storing excess atmospheric carbon in soils and vegetation. Humans have destroyed about half the world’s biomass and lost about half the soil carbon wherever forests have been converted to agriculture, pastures, and cities. Regenerating soil carbon is the most cost-effective way to stabilize climate at safe levels, avoid dangerous long-term temperature overshoot, and regenerate food supplies and freshwater resources. This could be done in decades if Geotherapy methods already developed to regenerate ecosystems and soil fertility were more widely applied. Soils have around five times more carbon than the atmosphere, and soil carbon can be rapidly increased through regenerative carbon recycling management, including use of biochar, an ancient technology invented by Indigenous Amazonian peoples thousands of years ago to create the world’s most fertile soils in the middle of the most infertile soils on Earth. Properly made biochar lasts holds carbon for thousands of years. Charcoal from forest fires 65 million years ago after the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, and even as far back as 350 million years ago, are still so perfectly preserved that the plant cells can be clearly seen. Biochar is best made from invasive weedy plants that have made large areas unproductive, converting wasted lands back into biodiverse, highly productive systems that hold far more carbon.

About half of soil carbon is stored in wetlands, and half that in coastal wetlands; mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses, whose soils hold more carbon than the atmosphere, and are responsible for about half the carbon burial in the oceans. These ecosystems, the most carbon-rich, occupy less than a percent of the Earth’s surface, and have been about half destroyed by humans. Restoring mangroves will be the fastest and cheapest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Most mangrove, seagrass, and salt marsh restoration projects fail as plants wash away before the roots can grow, because of increasing waves due to global sea level rise and global warming. Biorock electrical ecosystem restoration technology grows marine plant roots at much faster rates, and stores more carbon in marine soils, so it regenerates carbon-rich marine coastal ecosystems where other methods fail, protecting coasts from erosion, and regenerating critical juvenile fisheries habitat. GCRA, Biorock Indonesia, and Arsari Enviro Industri will apply these methods to restore destroyed mangroves in Kalimantan (Borneo) in order to turn intense carbon sources into sinks, and for orangutan sanctuaries. Last year, El Niño- caused forest fires burned organic peat soils in deforested and drained wetlands, briefly making Indonesia the world’s largest CO2 source, larger than China or the United States. Indonesia has the world’s largest mangrove and coral reef areas, but more than half the mangroves have been destroyed, and more than 90% of the reefs are damaged or degraded. By regenerating mangroves, coral reefs, fisheries, seagrasses, and beaches with Biorock technology Indonesia could become the world’s largest Carbon sink.

Geotherapy must be clearly distinguished from Geoengineering. Geotherapy is regenerative development to reverse climate change by restoring the natural carbon recycling mechanisms that regulate our planetary life support systems. Many Geoengineering proposals are expensive, unproven, high tech “solutions” that might provide temporary relief at best, but may cause worse problems and side-effects than the problems they claim to solve. Geotherapy has nothing in common with proposals masquerading as “green” solutions to climate change like Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS). BECCS proposes to grow huge plantations of mono-species forests on industrial scales (competing with food production), burn them for energy, and pump the CO2 into holes in the ground, which could cause earthquakes by over-pressuring faults. BECCS irresponsibly treats carbon as waste to be concealed rather than as a valuable natural resource. BECCS will prevent natural carbon and biological nutrient recycling and storage, along with all the long-term Geotherapy benefits that increased soil carbon provides for food and fresh water supplies. Urgent worldwide application of methods to regenerate natural soil carbon and soil fertility are our best hope to reduce GHGs, stabilize them at safe pre-industrial levels, prevent temperature overshoot, and reverse climate change. Immediate global action to apply these methods on a large scale is essential to do this in time to prevent coral reef extinction. Governments must rapidly change course for this to happen.

The authors are coral scientists with roots in Jamaica, Panama, Cuba, Martinique, and Puerto Rico who have worked on reefs worldwide for more than 5 decades. They thank the pioneers of coral bleaching research, Maurice Yonge, Thomas F. Goreau, Nora Goreau, Robert Trench, and Peter Glynn for their long guidance, and Kevin Lister and Michael MacCracken for helpful suggestions on the draft.


Restoring Coral Reefs Is Possible and Surprisingly Fast

Written By Dr. Mercola
Origianl posting on www.mercola.com

Coral reefs make up less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the Earth’s surface,1 yet supply resources worth an estimated $375 billion annually, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).2 More than 500 million people around the world depend on coral reefs for protection from storms, food, jobs and recreation, and they provide a home to more than 25 percent of fish species and 800 hard coral species.

As for their importance to their surrounding ecosystems, it is immense, and the sheer diversity of species that depend on coral reefs for spawning, breeding and feeding is equally impressive. There are 34 recognized animal phyla, for instance, and 32 of them are found on coral reefs (even rain forests count only nine different phyla among their midst).3

Sometimes referred to as “rain forests of the sea,” it’s estimated that coral reefs may support up to 2 million different species and act as essential nurseries for one-quarter of fish species.

Coral reefs also serve as carbon sinks, helping to absorb carbon dioxide from the environment, and represent an irreplaceable source of protection for coastal cities. Their importance as a food source is also considerable, as healthy coral reefs can provide about 15 tons of fish and other seafood per square kilometer (.38 square mile) per year.4

Unfortunately, corals are in severe decline. According to conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), two-thirds of coral reefs worldwide are under serious threat and another one-quarter are considered damaged beyond repair.5 There may, however, be hope, even for damaged reefs, as new technology offers a chance for reefs to regrow at a surprisingly fast pace.

Biorock Technology Restores Coral Reefs

In 2000, it was stated at the International Coral Reef Symposium that about 94 percent of Indonesia’s coral reefs were severely damaged. This included Pemuteran Bay, where the once-thriving coral reef was largely barren. Biorock technology proved to be the answer, restoring the reef in just over a decade:

“Pemuteran formerly had the richest reef fisheries in Bali. The large sheltered bay was surrounded by reefs teeming with fish. The natural population increase was greatly augmented by migration of fishermen from Java and Madura, where inshore fisheries had been wiped out by destructive over-exploitation.

Destructive methods, like use of bombs and cyanide followed their use in other islands, and steadily spread until most of the reefs had been destroyed. The offshore bank reefs that had been dense thickets of coral packed with swarms of fishes, were turned into piles of broken rubble, nearly barren of fish.”6

The Karang Lesteri Project, highlighted in the video above, began in June 2000, when the first “coral nursery” was built at the site. Ultimately, 70 Biorock coral reef structures of different sizes and shapes were planted in the area, restoring the area’s diversity and ecosystem. Formerly known as Seament and Seacrete, Biorock was developed by the late professor Wolf Hilbertz and scientist Thomas Goreau, president of the nonprofit organization the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA).

Projects are now being operated in Indonesia, Bali, Jamaica, the Republic of Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Phuket, Thailand and elsewhere. The technology starts with metal structures that are planted into the reef. Transplanted fragments of live coral (that have been damaged by storms, anchors or other mishaps) are attached and the structure is fed low-voltage electricity to accelerate the growth process. GCRA explains:7

“The Biorock® process … is a new method that uses low voltage direct current electricity to grow solid limestone rock structures in the sea and accelerate the growth of corals providing homes for reef fish and protecting the shoreline. The electrical current causes minerals that are naturally dissolved in seawater to precipitate and adhere to a metal structure. The result is a composite of limestone and brucite with mechanical strength similar to concrete.

Derived from seawater, this material is similar to the composition of natural coral reefs and tropical sand beaches … This patented process increases the growth rate of corals well above normal, giving them extra energy that allows them to survive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. At the same time these structures attract huge numbers of fish, and also provide breakwaters that get stronger with age.”

GCRA states that Biorock reefs grow at a rate of 1 to several centimeters of new rock per year, which is about three to five times faster than normal. While artificial reefs, which are sometimes made by sinking ships, planes, cars, concrete or other man-made materials, will sometimes attract fish and sponges that settle on their surface, the Biorock reefs ultimately turn into true, living coral reefs, courtesy of the growth of limestone. According to GCRA:8

“Coral larvae, which are millimeter-sized freely-swimming baby corals, will only settle and grow on clean limestone rock. This is why conventional artificial reefs made of tires or concrete rarely exhibit hard coral growth. But, when these coral larvae find a limestone surface, they attach themselves and start to grow skeletons. Mineral accretion is exactly what they are searching for. As a result, there are very high rates of natural coral settlement on Biorock structures.”

Is Biorock Sustainable, and Does It Withstand Hurricanes?

Funding to take Biorock to the next level is limited, with most projects so far acting as pilot projects to demonstrate how the process works. And some coral reef experts, such as Rod Salm, senior adviser emeritus with the Nature Conservancy, have suggested the process is too cost prohibitive to work on a large scale.9 Others have pointed out that its dependence on electricity could also be problematic environmentally, although some of the structures are powered via solar panels.

Further, GCRA evaluated damage to the structures in the Caribbean after hurricanes Hanna, Ike and Irma and found them to be remarkably unfazed. While even large shipwrecks in South Florida were damaged or moved during hurricane Andrew, for instance, the Biorocks’ open frameworks allowed water to flow through the structures, sparing them the brunt of the damage.

“For growing corals, we make open frameworks, so the corals can benefit from the water flow through the structure, just as they do in coral reef,” GCRA notes. “As a result of their low cross section to waves, they dissipate energy by surface friction as waves pass through them, refracting and diffracting waves rather than reflecting them. Their low drag coefficient means that they survive waves that would move or rip apart a solid object of the same size.”10

In research published in the journal Revista de Biologia Tropical by Goreau and colleagues, it’s noted that artificial reefs are often discouraged in shallow waters because of concerns that they could damage surrounding habitat during storms. However, in the case of the Biorock restorations, “the waves passed straight through with little damage,” and the researchers said the “high coral survival and low structural damage” after hurricanes suggests the process is effective even in areas that may be hit by storms.11

Another study by Goreau, published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, suggests Biorock electric reefs are able to grow back severely eroded beaches in just a few months. The study noted:12

“Biorock reefs stimulate settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to the environmental stress of all forms of marine life, restoring coral reefs, sea grasses, biological sand production, and fisheries habitat. Biorock reefs can grow back eroded beaches and islands faster than the rate of sea level rise, and are the most cost-effective method of shore protection and adaptation to global sea level rise for low lying islands and coasts”

What’s Causing Coral Reefs to Die?

Coral reefs are facing numerous threats, including rising water temperatures that lead to coral bleaching, in which coral reject symbiotic algae, turn white, and are at increased risk of dying. Overfishing, which disrupts the ecological balance in the reef, as well as destructive fishing practices, such as the use of cyanide, dynamite, bottom trawling or muro-ami (which involves the use of nets and banging the reef with sticks), are also threats, WWF notes.13

Reefs are also harmed by tourism via boating, anchor drops and people diving, snorkeling around and touching the reefs (or collecting coral), as well as construction, mining and logging, which send excess sediment into rivers and the ocean, where it blocks precious sunlight from reaching the coral reefs. There’s even a live rock trade, in which coral is mined for building materials or to sell as souvenirs, with no regard for the destruction it causes to the planet.14

Pollution is another major threat, including that from industrial farm runoff, which is fueling the growth of marine algae blooms, which alter the food chain and deplete oxygen, leading to sometimes-massive dead zones. Even the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone is known to kill off coral reefs. It’s estimated that between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reef areas worldwide every year.

Much of this sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which research found to be damaging at minute levels — just 62 parts per trillion, or the equivalent of one drop of water in 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools.15 Aside from entering the water on swimmers, oxybenzone gets washed down the drain when you shower, entering sewage systems. Once in the environment, as a study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology revealed, there are four key ways oxybenzone is damaging coral reefs:16

  • Exacerbates coral bleaching
  • Damages coral DNA, making them unable to reproduce and triggering widespread declines in coral populations
  • Acts as an endocrine disrupter, causing baby coral to encase themselves in their own skeletons and die
  • Causes gross deformities in coral, such as coral mouths that expand five times larger than normal

Other Techniques Restoring Coral Reefs

Numerous innovative programs are underway with the goal of restoring the world’s coral reefs. The Coral Restoration Foundation is using a program called the coral tree nursery, which is based on the fact that coral are able to grow and reproduce via fragmentation. That is, if a piece breaks off, it can reattach and grow again, forming a new colony.

Their program involves PVC “trees” that are tethered to the ocean floor. Coral fragments are then hung from the “branches.” The fragments come from their coral nurseries, where coral are nursed for up to nine months until they’re read to be attached to the tree. They’ve already produced tens of thousands of corals in their South Florida nurseries.17

In addition, the organization is working to create “healthy thickets of genetically diverse coral that can sexually reproduce and encourage natural recovery.” An estimated 22,000 corals have been “outplanted” in the Florida Keys, in part by volunteer divers, for this purpose.18

Other experts have suggested that releasing natural viruses, known as phages — short for bacteriophage — onto coral with bacterial disease could essentially wipe out the disease, saving the coral.19 Of course, prevention is even better than a cure, and this means taking steps to curb coral declines in the first place.

Changes to industrial agriculture that limit chemical runoff and help sequester carbon into the soil could have meaningful benefits to coral reefs. It’s estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land-management processes that contribute to the loss of carbon, as carbon dioxide, from farmlands. This, in turn, contributes to ocean acidification that harms coral, according to Defenders of Wildlife.

“Seawater absorbs some of the excess CO2 from the atmosphere, causing the oceans to become more acidic. As a result, the oceans’ acidity has increased by 25 percent over the past 200 years. These acidic conditions dissolve coral skeletons, which make up the structure of the reef, and make it more difficult for corals to grow.”20

So, in addition to being a responsible swimmer or diver — and not touching or breaking coral — as well as using only natural, reef-friendly sunscreen, support farmers who are using diverse cropping methods, such as planting of cover crops, raising animals on pasture and other methods of regenerative agriculture. This, in addition to the innovative methods like Biorock being used to restore barren reefs, can help protect the ocean’s reefs from further damage.

Sources and References

 


Frankencorals – In Science Magazine

The Frankenword glossary (Science: 359:154, 2018) omits Frankencorals! It covers death-dealing Frankentechnologies that alarm the public, but life-giving electrical technologies are completely excluded. We’re shocked: none of your examples involves electricity like the Global Coral Reef Alliance’s Biorock electrolysis technology, the sine qua non for genuine membership in the Frankenclub!

Despite widespread electrophobia, Biorock’s electrifying results are entirely beneficial: greatly increased settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to stress of all marine organisms examined, plants and animals, mobile or sessile (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). Instead of convulsions and rigor mortis, Biorock corals uniquely survive severe high temperature bleaching events that kill more than 95% of corals around them, and quickly smile back at us because the low currents used are in the natural range and show no negative effects, except for predatory sharks, which get confused and won’t bite food right in front of them (M. P. Uchoa, C. C. O’Connell, & T. J. Goreau, 2017, The effects of Biorock-associated electric fields on the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), Animal Biology, DOI 10.1163/15707563-00002531).

Biorock is the only marine material construction material that grows solid self-repairing structures 2-3 times harder than concrete (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), and regenerates severely eroded beaches at record rates (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), rapidly grow beach sand from calcareous algae, restore seagrasses and salt marshes under severe stress where all other methods fail, keep whole coral and oyster reef ecosystems alive when they would die, and grow them back at record rates where there is no natural regeneration (T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), 2012, Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press). Biorock Indonesia and our partners are about to start Biorock mangrove and Nipa palm restoration of illegally deforested Borneo mangroves for orang utan sanctuaries and to sequester atmospheric CO2 as peat in what we expect to be the single most cost-effective carbon sink.

The reason marine life gets a charge from the Biorock method is that we operate in the beneficial range that galvanizes natural biophysical membrane voltage gradients all forms of life use to make biochemical energy, so they don’t need to use up to half their energy pumping protons and electrons backwards to maintain membrane voltage gradients, whose collapse means death (as caused by high voltages and currents). That’s why we call it electro-tickling, the antithesis of electrocuting high voltage currents everybody is monstrously terrified of!

Published in Science Magazine eLetter 359:154 


GCRA team surveys reef in lieu of controversial Panama Canal port project

Panamanian environmental groups use Global Coral Reef Alliance study of healthy coral reef in front of the Panama Canal breakwater to try to save it from destruction by port development.

La Prensa article December 28 2017 (Spanish)

CIAM announcement


Biorock electric coral reefs survive the most severe hurricanes with little or no damage

Two new Global Coral Reef Alliance videos answer the question many people have: what happens in a hurricane? Here we show that Biorock reefs hit by the eye of three of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes, Hanna, Ike, and Irma, suffered almost no physical damage and built up sand around them during the event.

In contrast, solid concrete objects nearby caused so much scour and erosion around and under them that they sank into the sand. Solid breakwaters cause reflection of waves at the solid surface, concentrating all the wave energy in one plane, which causes sand to wash away in front of the structure, then underneath, until it is undermined and collapses. This is the inevitable fate of any vertical seawall, so they need constant and costly repair and replacement. After Hurricane Andrew every single shipwreck in South Florida was torn apart or moved great distances due to the strong surface drag. Not one remained intact.

Biorock electric coral reefs can be any size or shape. For growing corals, we make open frameworks, so the corals can benefit from the water flow through the structure, just as they do in coral reef. As a result of their low cross section to waves, they dissipate energy by surface friction as waves pass through them, refracting and diffracting waves rather than reflecting them. Their low drag coefficient means that they survive waves that would move or rip apart a solid object of the same size.

Here we show what happened to Biorock reefs after the most severe hurricanes ever to hit Saint Barthelemy and Grand Turk. Incredibly, there was little or no physical damage to the structures or to the corals, even though these structures were not welded, simply wired together by hand, and they were not physically attached to the bottom, simply sitting on the bottom under their own weight, attaching themselves to hard bottoms and cementing sand around their bases through growth of limestone rock over their surfaces.

Saint Barthelemy:

Grand Turk:

These astonishing results follow our previous video showing the record recovery of severely eroded beaches behind Biorock reefs:

Scientific papers documenting the Grand Turk results are at: Effect of severe hurricanes on Biorock Coral Reef Restoration Projects in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

and the rapid restoration of the beach at: Biorock Electric Reefs Grow Back Severely Eroded Beaches in Months

It is important to realize that neither rocks nor structures exposed at low tide shown in this video are an essential part of the method. Almost all of Biorock structures are completely submerged and have no rocks. At Pulau Gangga this design was used to protect the beach from storms at high tide, and effectiveness was more important than aesthetics to the Resort, so they opted not to have what most people want: an invisible watchman that you can’t see at low tide sunset!

In addition, Biorock electric reefs greatly increase the settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to stress of all marine organisms, with only a single known exception: predatory sharks avoid electric fields that confuse them, protecting people and sharks from each other (Uchoa, O’Connell, & Goreau, 2017). In 2016 there was nearly complete survival of Biorock corals during severe high-temperature events that bleached and killed more than 95% of corals on nearby reefs.

Our results show that Biorock electric reefs are the most cost-effective method for saving corals from global warming, restoring reef communities (whether corals, oysters, or mussels), and protecting coastlines from erosion and global sea level rise.