Biorock electric reef restoration projects to start in India

Scientists to use solar energy to regenerate locally extinct corals

Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times

Biorock, Bali
Photo by: Eunjae Im

Marine scientists will use solar energy for the first time in India to regenerate corals that become extinct from the Gulf of Kutch off the Gujarat coast thousands of years ago.

Scientists across the world are trying to come up with various methods that can regenerate bleached and locally extinct corals. One such technique, popularly called biorock, has helped scientists in many countries to conserve and protect coral reefs also known as underwater gardens.

Pemuteran in Indonesia has the world’s largest coral regeneration project where biorock has been used.

India has four major coral reefs — Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch. While the reefs in Andaman are considered the richest and most diverse, the ones in Kutch area are the poorest. Only 30% of the coral in Kutch area are alive, albeit in a degraded condition.

“We have identified a site in the shallow waters near Shivrajpur in Dwarka area of Gujarat where the pilot project could be carried out. There are some challenges such as siltation and high tidal fluctuations which we have to address. Using solar power is under consideration and the technical details are being worked out,” Shyamal Tikader, chief conservator of forest in Gujarat, said.

A steel structure would be first installed on the seabed and could be of any shape ranging from a simple arch to as complex as that of a motorcycle. Photo by: Eunjae Im

Coral reefs are like underwater gardens and one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth providing food and shelter to millions of species. They are under threat because of climate change-induced ocean acidification, pollution and human activities among others.

“We will be using electricity to re-grow corals for the first time in India. These corals had become locally extinct from the Kutch region long ago but can be found in other reefs across India. Plans are going on to start the pilot project in April with the help of solar power,” Chowdula Satyanarayana, a coral scientist with the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) who is leading the project, said.

A steel structure would be first installed on the seabed and could be of any shape ranging from a simple arch to as complex as that of a motorcycle. Cables would connect the structure to a power source such as solar panels, which would float on the surface of the sea.

Very low doses of electricity – less than 12 volts – would then be run through the structure via the cables. The electricity would trigger a chemical reaction in the sea water, similar to that of electrolysis. Minerals, mostly calcium carbonate (limestone), would get deposited on the steel structure.

“Divers would attach fragments and twigs of corals brought from other reefs like Gulf of Mannar to the steel structure. The structure, which now will have a layer of limestone on it, can act as a base for the corals to grow again,” Satyanarayana added.

Scientists have selected five species of branching corals for the project which grow very fast and once used to dominate the Kutch reef. The zooxanthellae – tiny plant-like organisms that make live corals colourful – return automatically helping the corals to thrive.

The coral polyps, which are animals, and zooxanthellae share a mutual relation. The corals provide shelter to the zooxanthellae and compounds these tiny algae need for photosynthesis. The algae in return produce oxygen and help the corals to remove wastes.

They also supply them with glucose and amino acids which the corals use to make fats, proteins and carbohydrates and even calcium carbonate. Most importantly, the zooxanthellae give colours to the otherwise white corals.

Scientists have selected five species of branching corals for the project which grow very fast and once used to dominate the Kutch reef. Photo by: EunJae Im

Under stressful conditions such as pollution, high temperature and ocean acidification among others, the coral polyps expel the zooxanthellae. Without the colour, the corals turn white a process which is popularly called coral bleaching.

With a base of limestone and low doses of current supplied at regularly, the corals could grow nearly 20 times faster and have better chances of survival, experts claimed.

“It is just like giving oxygen to an athlete while he is running. With oxygen, he would be able to run faster and for a longer period. Similarly, it has been seen that providing small doses of electricity helps the corals to recuperate faster and survive longer,” Satyanarayana said.

The ZSI is trying to rope in Thomas Goreau, a US-based coral expert who along with Wolf Hilbert developed and patented the biorock method.

“We have helped many countries in setting up biorocks. Next, I would be providing special materials and help Satyanarayana. Biorock doesn’t just help corals but have helped to restore the fish population, which often takes shelter in these structures,” Goreau told Hindustan Times over email.

Original article: Hindustan Times


This Coral Restoration Technique Is ‘Electrifying’ a Balinese Village

The technique is also changing attitudes and inspiring locals to preserve their natural treasures

smithsonian.com 
coral_goddess_and_snapper.jpg__800x600_q85_crop
Under the waters in Pemuteran, in Bali, this structure might be helping restore a coral reef. (Rani Morrow-Wuigk)

As you walk the beach in Pemuteran, a tiny fishing village on the northwest coast of Bali, Indonesia, be careful not to trip on the power cables snaking into the turquoise waves. At the other end of those cables are coral reefs that are thriving with a little help from a low-voltage electrical current.

These electrified reefs grow much faster, backers say. The process, known as Biorock, could help restore these vital ocean habitats at a critical time. Warming waters brought on by climate change threaten many of the world’s coral reefs, and huge swaths have bleached in the wake of the latest El Niño.

Skeptics note that there isn’t much research comparing Biorock to other restoration techniques. They agree, however, that what’s happening with the people of Pemuteran is as important as what’s going on with the coral.

Dynamite and cyanide fishing had devastated the reefs here. Their revival could not have succeeded without a change in attitude and the commitment of the people of Pemuteran to protect them.

building_sturctures.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale.jpg
A Pemuteran resident assembles one of the Biorock reef restoration structures. (Rani Morrow-Wuigk)

Pemuteran is home to the world’s largest Biorock reef restoration project. It began in 2000, after a spike in destructive fishing methods had ravaged the reefs, collapsed fish stocks and ruined the nascent tourism industry.  A local scuba shop owner heard about the process and invited the inventors, Tom Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz, to try it out in the bay in front of his place.

Herman was one of the workers who built the first structure. (Like many Indonesians, he goes by just one name.) He was skeptical.

“How (are we) growing the coral ourselves?” he wondered. “What we know is, this belongs to god, or nature. How can we make it?”

A coral reef is actually a collection of tiny individuals called polyps. Each polyp lays down a layer of calcium carbonate beneath itself as it grows and divides, forming the reef’s skeleton. Biorock saves the polyps the trouble. When electrical current runs through steel under seawater, calcium carbonate forms on the surface. (The current is low enough that it won’t hurt the polyps, reef fish or divers.)

Hilbertz, an archihtect, patented the Biorock process in the 1970s as a way to build underwater structures. Coral grows on these structures extremely well. Polyps attached to Biorock take the energy they would have devoted to building calcium carbonate skeletons and apply it toward growing, or warding off diseases.

Hilbertz’s colleague Goreau is a marine scientist, and he put Biorock to work as a coral-restoration tool. The duo says that electrified reefs grow from two to six times faster than untreated reefs, and survive high temperatures and other stresses better.

Herman didn’t believe it would work. But, he says, he was “just a worker. Whatever the boss says, I do.”

So he and some other locals bought some heavy cables and a power supply. They welded some steel rebar into a mesh frame and carried it into the bay. They attached pieces of living coral broken off other reefs. They hooked it all up. And they waited.

Within days, minerals started to coat the metal bars. And the coral they attached to the frame started growing.

“I was surprised,” Herman says. “I said, damn! We did this!”

“We started taking care of it, like a garden,” he adds. “And we started to love it.”

Now, there are more than 70 Biorock reefs around Pemuteran, covering five acres of ocean floor.

indonesia_-_yayasan_karang_lestari_teluk_pemuteran_supp2.jpg__600x0_q85_upscale
(Rani Morrow-Wuigk)

But experts are cautious about Biorock’s potential. “It certainly does appear to work,” says Tom Moore, who leads coral restoration work in the U.S. Caribbean for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, he adds, “what we’ve been lacking, and what’s kept the scientific community from embracing it, is independent validation.” He notes that nearly all the studies about Biorock published in the scientific literature are authored by the inventors themselves.

And very little research compares growth rates or long-term fitness of Biorock reefs to those restored by other techniques. Moore’s group has focused on restoring endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals. A branch snipped off these types will grow its own branches, which themselves can be snipped and regrown.

He says they considered trying Biorock, but with the exponential expansion they were doing, “We were growing things plenty fast. Growing them a little faster wasn’t going to help us.”

Plus, the need for a constant power supply limits Biorock’s potential, he adds. But climate change is putting coral reefs in such dire straits that Biorock may get a closer look, Moore says.

The two endangered corals his group works on “are not the only two corals in the [Caribbean] system. They’re also not the only two corals listed under the Endangered Species Act. We’ve had the addition of a number of new corals in the last two years.” These slower-growing corals are harder to propagate.

“We’re actively looking for new techniques,” Moore adds. That includes Biorock. “I want to keep a very much open mind.”

But there’s one thing he’s sure about. “Regardless of my skepticism of whether Biorock is any better than any of the other techniques,” he says, “it’s engaging the community in restoration. It’s changing value sets. [That’s] absolutely critical.”

earthday_and_school_children_from_pemuteran.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscaleYayasan Karang Lestari Pemuteran, the local nonprofit that works with the creators of Biorock, also makes environmental education a priority. (Rani Morrow-Wuigk)

Pemuteran was one of Bali’s poorest villages. Many depend on the ocean for subsistence. The climate is too dry to grow rice, the national staple. Residents grow corn instead, but “only one time a year because we don’t get enough water,” says Komang Astika, a dive manager at Pemuteran’s Biorock Information Center, whose parents are farmers. “Of course it will not be enough,” he adds.

Chris Brown, a computer engineer, arrived in Pemuteran in 1992 in semi-retirement. He planned to, as he put it, trade in his pinstripe suit for a wetsuit and become a dive instructor.

There wasn’t much in Pemuteran back then. Brown says there were a couple good reefs offshore, “but also a lot of destruction going on, with dynamite fishing and using potassium cyanide to collect aquarium fish.” A splash of the poison will stun fish. But it kills many more, and it does long-lasting damage to the reef habitat.

When he spotted fishermen using dynamite or cyanide, he’d call the police. But that didn’t work too well at first, he says.

“In those days the police would come and hesitantly arrest the people, and the next day they’d be [released] because the local villagers would come and say, ‘that’s my family. You’ve got to release them or we’ll [protest].’”

But Brown spent years getting to know the people of Pemuteran. Over time, he says, they grew to trust him. He remembers a pivotal moment in the mid-1990s. The fisheries were collapsing, but the local fishermen didn’t understand why. Brown was sitting on the beach with some local fishermen, watching some underwater video Brown had just shot.

One scene showed a destroyed reef. It was “just coral rubble and a few tiny fish swimming around.” In the next scene, “there’s some really nice coral reefs and lots of fish. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh no, they’re going to go out and attack the areas of good coral because there’s good fish there.’”

That’s not what happened.

“One of the older guys actually said, ‘So, if there’s no coral, there’s no fish. If there’s good coral, there’s lots of fish.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘So we’d better protect the good coral because we need more fish.’

“Then I thought, ‘These people aren’t stupid, as many people were saying. They’re just educated differently.’”

pejalang.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscaleLocals formed a coast guard to protect their reefs after they started to understand the connection between healthy reefs and healthy fish. (Rani Morrow-Wuigk)

It wasn’t long before the people of Pemuteran would call the police on destructive fishermen.

But sometimes, Brown still took the heat.

Once, when locals called the police on cyanide fishers from a neighboring village, Brown says, people from that village “came back later with a big boat full of people from the other village wielding knives and everything and yelling, ‘Bakar, bakar!’ which means ‘burn, burn.’ They wanted to burn down my dive shop.”

But the locals defended Brown. “They confronted these other [fishermen] and said, ‘It wasn’t the foreigner who called the police. It was us, the fishermen from this village. We’re sick and tired of you guys coming in and destroying [the reefs].’”

That’s when local dive shop owner Yos Amerta started working with Biorock’s inventors. The turnaround was fast, dramatic and effective. As the coral grew, fish populations rebounded. And the electrified reefs drew curious tourists from around the world.

One survey found that “forty percent of tourists visiting Pemuteran were not only aware of village coral restoration efforts, but came to the area specifically to see the rejuvenated reefs,” according to the United Nations Development Program. The restoration work won UNDP’s Equator Prize in 2012, among other accolades.

Locals are working as dive leaders and boat drivers, and the new hotels and restaurants offer another market for the locals’ catch.

“Little by little, the economy is rising,” says the Biorock Center’s Astika. “[People] can buy a motorbike, [children] can go to school. Now, some local people already have hotels.”

Herman, who helped build the first Biorock structure, now is one of those local hotel owners. He says the growing tourism industry has helped drive a change in attitudes among the people in Pemuteran.

“Because they earn money from the environment, they will love it,” he says.

Original Article: Smithsonian.com


GCRA: 25 years of cutting-edge coral reef research and restoration

January 22 2016, St. Georges, Grenada.

The Global Coral Reef Alliance was founded 25 years ago as a global voluntary network to do cutting edge research and development on reversing the threats to coral reefs and developing new methods to restore coral reefs, fisheries, mangroves, sea grass, salt marsh, and beaches naturally, working on critical problems that nobody else works on because there is no funding.

26 years ago, as Senior Scientific Affairs Officer for Global Climate Change and Biodiversity issues at the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development, I realized that no group anywhere in the world was focusing on solving fundamental scientific problems related to coral reefs because they were obsessed with doing whatever silly fad of the day that the funding agencies were throwing all their money at.

GCRA invented the method to predict coral bleaching accurately from satellite data 25 years ago and showed then that coral reefs worldwide were the first ecosystem to be seriously damaged by global warming, and that corals could not take any further warming. Governments have deliberately chosen to let coral reefs die for 25 years rather than admit the clear scientific evidence that global warming was already causing severe damage or do anything to reverse it. In the last 25 years we have lost most of the corals, and this year we will lose many more. In the past 25 years GCRA has worked in reefs in most of the small island states of the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia. They have lost most of their biodiversity, fisheries, shore protection, and tourism resources, and are the first and worst victims of climate change even before their islands are flooded.

GCRA invented the Biorock method for restoring all marine ecosystems and coastal habitats, which is the only method of marine ecosystem restoration that greatly increases settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to environmental stress of all marine organisms, because it directly stimulates the fundamental biophysical mechanism by which all forms of life make their biochemical energy. Biorock technology keeps coral reefs alive when they would die, and restores them, and the beaches behind them, in a few years in places where there is no natural recovery. In the Maldives in 1998 Biorock reefs had 1600% to 5,000% higher coral survival than nearby reefs, and grew back a completely eroded beach in 2-3 years.

GCRA has also done leading research on reversing the effects of pollution on coral reefs, identifying the pathogens causing coral, sponge, and algae diseases, works with indigenous communities to manage and improve their biological resources, and has led global efforts at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for 25 years to reverse global climate change by increasing soil carbon sinks, among many other activities.

The list of activities in 2015 are listed below. Any year of the last 25 would have shown an equally diverse range of projects all over the globe.

After 25 years of non-stop, unpaid, back-breaking labor, we find that the situation of coral reef degradation, and the ignorance of the causes and solutions, have only gotten worse. Vast sums are spent by the funding agencies on nonsensical propaganda about “resilience” in order to avoid political action or funding to directly reduce threats to reefs or actively restoring them. Without active restoration no marine protected area will be able to protect corals or fisheries as global climate change starts to kick in, but no funding agency supports serious restoration, though all fund creating parks that can’t work in the long run.

GCRA gets dozens of critical requests for help for restoration every month from groups all over the world, but we can’t respond to most because we have no endowment, no operating funds, no budget for travel, and no benefactors. Essentially all our small donations are earmarked for specific projects, and most of those are in-kind donations. Had we realized how disastrous funding would be, it would have been insane to have even started! After 25 years GCRA is as poor as when it started, starting our 25th year with only a couple of hundred dollars in our account to support our world wide activities, which is more than I have in my personal account, this work has driven me to destitution.

But it is too late now, the situation is even more critical than ever as the global warming-caused extinction of coral reef ecosystems accelerates, and 2016 could well be the coup de grace for many reefs, with more to follow in the coming years unless the world chooses to take serious and effective action to reverse global warming.

In Paris governments refused to act in time to avert reef extinction, and so effectively condemned them to death. Ironically the world came very close to effective action: on December 1 the French Government proposed that soil carbon be included in the climate change treaty and governments commit to increasing soil carbon to reverse climate change (a proposal I had originally made in the 1980s), but on December 10 the French Government dropped their own proposal in the rush for a political “agreement” that is incapable of meeting its own goals due to fundamental carbon accounting errors that need to be corrected if it is to be effective.

In 2016 we face a critical emergency to build as many Biorock Coral Arks as possible to maintain species populations in areas that will lose them if they bleach severely this year. Since there is no funding to do so, GCRA will continue to work with all local groups in developing countries wherever they can find local support to grow back their marine ecosystem resources, since the international community has left coral reef ecosystems to die.

2015 GCRA ACTIVITIES

GCRA develops new projects in around 10 countries every year, but since we are constantly busy we never have time to keep the web page up to date, so it may seem we are up to nothing! Here is a list of some major projects done in 2015.

1. Indonesia
Indonesia continued to have most Biorock coral reef restoration projects in the world as Indonesian Biorock groups continued to install many new projects in Bali, Lombok, Java, Sulawesi, Ambon, Flores, and Sumbawa, with more constantly under development. Biorock Indonesia PT was formed as the umbrella group for future Biorock projects along with Yayasan Karang Lestari (Protected Coral Foundation, winner of the 2012 UN Equator Award for Community Based Development and the Special UNDP Award for Ocean and Coastal Management), and local partners. Tom Goreau taught the 10th Indonesian Biorock Coral Reef and Fisheries Restoration Training Workshop during the Bali Buleleng Dive Festival. Large, spectacular new projects were installed in Bali and Sulawesi. A Biorock shore protection reef to grow back an eroded beach was designed and installed in Sulawesi, and a similar project was designed in West Papua to be installed next year. An integrated whole-watershed and coastal zone nutrient, water, and soil management plan was drafted to protect the coral reefs of Pemuteran, Bali, from eutrophication, and collaboration with the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center of Udayana University was established.

2. Panama
New Biorock coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove restoration projects were installed at the Galeta Marine Laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Stanley Heckadon of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution. The solar powered Biorock coral reef restoration project at Yandup, Uggupseni, Guna Yala (Autonomous Guna Indian territory) was expanded. This pilot project aims to save Guna islands now being abandoned due to sea level rise. All Panama Caribbean coral reefs underwent severe high temperature coral bleaching in 2015, affecting both Biorock projects. The Galeta Biorock project is located next to a similar unpowered control structure, so comparison of coral mortality and survival on the two structures will allow benefits of Biorock to be determined. We expect Biorock corals will show much higher coral recovery and survival based on results after severe bleaching events in the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia. When results are available they will be posted here.

3. Curaçao
The largest Biorock coral restoration project in the Caribbean was installed in Curaçao with Curaçao Divers. The project consists of 7 Biorock reefs linked together on the shelf slope. The corals show excellent growth, and fish populations are building up. The latest reports from Curaçao Divers will be reported here.

4. Saint Barthelemy
The Biorock coral reef restoration project in St. Barthelemy continued to show excellent growth of all four Acropora species (elkhorn, staghorn, and both hybrid varieties), as well as all other coral species, and has created an oasis of coral, fish and plankton in a barren, high wave stress environment. New Biorock coral reef restoration projects to restore deeper coral reefs, and to grow back shallow reefs to cause eroded beach sand to grow back naturally, were planned and approved for installation in 2016.

5. Bahamas
Cutting edge work on the response of sharks to low voltage direct current electrical fields was done in Bimini with Marcella Uchoa and Craig O’Neill. The dramatic results will be reported here when published. The Biorock coral reef and seagrass restoration project in Abaco continues to show excellent coral growth, spectacular seagrass growth, and dense fish populations, and our long term studies of corals killed by algae overgrowth and diseases near golf course nutrient sources continues.

6. Mexico
An environmental assessment for restoration of threatened endemic species in the Sea of Cortez using Biorock mariculture methods, and for development of tidal current energy resources, was done, and approved by the Indigenous Comca’ac (Seri) Indian Ejido of Sonora. Pilot projects should start in early 2016

7. Polynesia
Biorock ecotourism coral restoration projects by Denis Schneider of Espace Bleu have expanded to more hotels in Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Moorea, and research has shown Biorock benefits for giant clams, pearl oysters, and corals. A collaborative proposal for research on effects of Biorock on coral settlement was funded by the French government and will start in early 2016.

8. Spain
Research projects with collaborators at the Plentzia Marine Laboratory of the University of the Basque Country in Spain found electrical fields resulted in greatly increased cell proliferation rates in mussel livers. Biorock minerals grown under different conditions were identified and their chemistry determined. Further research is underway on fundamental biophysical, biochemical, and cellular effects of the Biorock process.

9. United States
Tom Goreau gave talks on climate, soil, water, and temperature interactions at the Conference on Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming in Boston, and was active in leading the Soil Carbon Alliance efforts to urge governments to reverse global climate change through increasing soil carbon. The solar-powered Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Lauderdale By The Sea came to the end of their mandated three year monitoring program. The Town terminated all funding for the project and cut off the cables to the solar power buoys the Biorock team had designed and built to remove them. The project was literally cut off from power right during a severe high temperature coral bleaching event, when most needed! The project could easily be powered from a nearby fishing pier, but funding is crucially needed to save it.

10. Cuba
Tom Goreau gave papers on use of wave energy to restore coral reefs and regrow beaches naturally at the Cuban Marine Science Congress, on soil carbon, climate change, and soil fertility restoration at the Cuban Agro-Ecology Conference, and met with coral reef and shore protection colleagues.

11. France
Tom Goreau gave several talks at the Paris UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a delegate of the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change. These talks, in both government delegate areas and the public areas, focused on vulnerability of reefs and coasts to climate change, soil carbon to stabilize CO2 at safe levels, and on restoration of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coasts.

These materials are summarized in the video links below:

Tom Goreau presentation: Paris COP-21 12/2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Tom Goreau presentation at Paris COP-21 12/2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

12. Other countries
New projects were approved for early 2016 in Italy, Papua, Indonesia, Vanuatu, Maldives, St. Barthelemy, and Saint Martin, and possibly more, while many requests for new projects came from a dozen more countries, but did not move forward due to lack of either funding or permission for serious marine ecosystem restoration.

2016 PRIORITIES

In 2016 GCRA’s top priorities will be the global bleaching crisis caused by record global high temperatures and El Niño, documenting coral survival on bleached Biorock projects, reconnecting old Biorock projects in the Maldives before bleaching hits, starting new Biorock Coral Arks to maintain surviving coral populations in as many places as possible before impacts get worse, starting Biorock shore protection reef projects to grow eroded beaches back naturally in as many places as possible, and starting large-scale Biorock mangrove, sea grass, and salt marsh carbon restoration projects as possible, while continuing to promote soil carbon solutions to reverse global climate change from research, implementation, to global policy stages.

2016 KEY YEAR IN CORAL REEF EXTINCTION FROM GLOBAL WARMING

It is now 25 years since I showed the satellite sea surface temperature data at Al Gore’s US Senate Hearings on Climate Change proving that coral reefs were already being damaged by global warming, and that the threshold for severe coral bleaching was only 1 degree C. In 1992 at the signing of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro I warned that the treaty would not prevent most corals from dying from high temperatures in the next 20 years. For 25 years governments have simply let the corals die, while denying there were global impacts of high temperature. Now they are mostly gone, and the Paris agreement is too weak to protect them. 2016 will be a record high temperature year, beating the 2015 record according to the UK Met Office. In 2015 severe coral bleaching hit Florida, Hawaii, Cuba, and Panama. It will be crucial to document all bleaching in 2016 in the hope that CO2 can be controlled in time to prevent the complete extinction of coral reefs, which is just barely possible if serious action were to start immediately both building Biorock Coral Arks to maintain temperature resistant populations where possible and reducing future impacts of global warming by increasing soil carbon.

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
President, Biorock Technology Inc.
Coordinator, Soil Carbon Alliance
Coordinator, United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Small Island Developing States Partnership in New Sustainable Technologies


2015 GCRA ACTIVITIES

2015 GCRA ACTIVITIES

GCRA develops new projects in around 10 countries every year, but since we are constantly busy we never have time to keep the web page up to date, so it may seem we are up to nothing! Here is a list of some major projects done in 2015.

INDONESIA

Indonesia continued to have most Biorock coral reef restoration projects in the world as Indonesian Biorock groups continued to install many new projects in Bali, Lombok, Java, Sulawesi, Ambon, Flores, and Sumbawa, with more constantly under development. Biorock Indonesia PT was formed as the umbrella group for future Biorock projects along with Yayasan Karang Lestari (Protected Coral Foundation, winner of the 2012 UN Equator Award for Community Based Development and the Special UNDP Award for Ocean and Coastal Management), and local partners. Tom Goreau taught the 10th Indonesian Biorock Coral Reef and Fisheries Restoration Training Workshop during the Bali Buleleng Dive Festival. Large, spectacular new projects were installed in Bali and Sulawesi. A Biorock shore protection reef to grow back an eroded beach was designed and installed in Sulawesi, and a similar project was designed in West Papua to be installed next year. An integrated whole-watershed and coastal zone nutrient, water, and soil management plan was drafted to protect the coral reefs of Pemuteran, Bali, from eutrophication, and collaboration with the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center of Udayana University was established.

PANAMA

New Biorock coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove restoration projects were installed at the Galeta Marine Laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Stanley Heckadon of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution. The solar powered Biorock coral reef restoration project at Yandup, Uggupseni, Guna Yala (Autonomous Guna Indian territory) was expanded. This pilot project aims to save Guna islands now being abandoned due to sea level rise. All Panama Caribbean coral reefs underwent severe high temperature coral bleaching in 2015, affecting both Biorock projects. The Galeta Biorock project is located next to a similar unpowered control structure, so comparison of coral mortality and survival on the two structures will allow benefits of Biorock to be determined. We expect Biorock corals will show much higher coral recovery and survival based on results after severe bleaching events in the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia. When results are available they will be posted here.

CURAÇAO

The largest Biorock coral restoration project in the Caribbean was installed in Curaçao with Curaçao Divers. The project consists of 7 Biorock reefs linked together on the shelf slope. The corals show excellent growth, and fish populations are building up. The latest reports from Curaçao Divers will be reported here.

SAINT BARTHELEMY

The Biorock coral reef restoration project in St. Barthelemy continued to show excellent growth of all four Acropora species (elkhorn, staghorn, and both hybrid varieties), as well as all other coral species, and has created an oasis of coral, fish and plankton in a barren, high wave stress environment. New Biorock coral reef restoration projects to restore deeper coral reefs, and to grow back shallow reefs to cause eroded beach sand to grow back naturally, were planned and approved for installation in 2016.

BAHAMAS

Cutting edge work on the response of sharks to low voltage direct current electrical fields was done in Bimini with Marcella Uchoa and Craig O’Neill. The dramatic results will be reported here when published. The Biorock coral reef and seagrass restoration project in Abaco continues to show excellent coral growth, spectacular seagrass growth, and dense fish populations, and our long term studies of corals killed by algae overgrowth and diseases near golf course nutrient sources continues.

MEXICO

An environmental assessment for restoration of threatened endemic species in the Sea of Cortez using Biorock mariculture methods, and for development of tidal current energy resources, was done, and approved by the Indigenous Comca’ac (Seri) Indian Ejido of Sonora. Pilot projects should start in early 2016

POLYNESIA

Biorock ecotourism coral restoration projects by Denis Schneider of Espace Bleu have expanded to more hotels in Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Moorea, and research has shown Biorock benefits for giant clams, pearl oysters, and corals. A collaborative proposal for research on effects of Biorock on coral settlement was funded by the French government and will start in early 2016.

SPAIN

Research projects with collaborators at the Plentzia Marine Laboratory of the University of the Basque Country in Spain found electrical fields resulted in greatly increased cell proliferation rates in mussel livers. Biorock minerals grown under different conditions were identified and their chemistry determined. Further research is underway on fundamental biophysical, biochemical, and cellular effects of the Biorock process.

UNITED STATES

Tom Goreau gave talks on climate, soil, water, and temperature interactions at the Conference on Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming in Boston, and was active in leading the Soil Carbon Alliance efforts to urge governments to reverse global climate change through increasing soil carbon. The solar-powered Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Lauderdale By The Sea came to the end of their mandated three year monitoring program. The Town terminated all funding for the project and cut off the cables to the solar power buoys the Biorock team had designed and built to remove them. The project was literally cut off from power right during a severe high temperature coral bleaching event, when most needed! The project could easily be powered from a nearby fishing pier, but funding is crucially needed to save it.

CUBA

Tom Goreau gave papers on use of wave energy to restore coral reefs and regrow beaches naturally at the Cuban Marine Science Congress, on soil carbon, climate change, and soil fertility restoration at the Cuban Agro-Ecology Conference, and met with coral reef and shore protection colleagues.

FRANCE

Tom Goreau gave several talks at the Paris UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a delegate of the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change. These talks, in both government delegate areas and the public areas, focused on vulnerability of reefs and coasts to climate change, soil carbon to stabilize CO2 at safe levels, and on restoration of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coasts.

These materials are summarized in the video links below:

http://www.globalcoral.org/tom-goreau-presentation-paris-cop-21-122015-united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change/

http://www.globalcoral.org/tom-goreau-presentation-at-paris-cop-21-122015-united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change/

http://www.globalcoral.org/after-paris-decade-of-soil-organic-carbon-to-reverse-climate-change-and-save-coral-reefs/

OTHER COUNTRIES

New projects were approved for early 2016 in Italy, Papua, Indonesia, Vanuatu, and Saint Martin, and possibly more, while many requests for new projects came from a dozen more countries, but did not move forward due to lack of either funding or permission for serious marine ecosystem restoration.

2016 PRIORITIES

In 2016 GCRA’s top priorities will be the global bleaching crisis caused by record global high temperatures and El Niño, documenting coral survival on bleached Biorock projects, reconnecting old Biorock projects in the Maldives before bleaching hits, starting new Biorock Coral Arks to maintain surviving coral populations in as many places as possible before impacts get worse, starting Biorock shore protection reef projects to grow eroded beaches back naturally in as many places as possible, and starting large-scale Biorock mangrove, sea grass, and salt marsh carbon restoration projects as possible, while continuing to promote soil carbon solutions to reverse global climate change from research, implementation, to global policy stages.

2016 KEY YEAR IN CORAL REEF EXTINCTION FROM GLOBAL WARMING

It is now 25 years since I showed the satellite sea surface temperature data at Al Gore’s US Senate Hearings on Climate Change proving that coral reefs were already being damaged by global warming, and that the threshold for severe coral bleaching was only 1 degree C. In 1992 at the signing of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro I warned that the treaty would not prevent most corals from dying from high temperatures in the next 20 years. For 25 years governments have simply let the corals die, while denying there were global impacts of high temperature. Now they are mostly gone, and the Paris agreement is too weak to protect them. 2016 will be a record high temperature year, beating the 2015 record according to the UK Met Office. In 2015 severe coral bleaching hit Florida, Hawaii, Cuba, and Panama. It will be crucial to document all bleaching in 2016 in the hope that CO2 can be controlled in time to prevent the complete extinction of coral reefs, which is just possible if serious action were to start immediately both building Biorock Coral Arks to maintain temperature resistant populations where possible and reducing future impacts of global warming by increasing soil carbon.

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

 


Broward Segment II FONSI & EA are inadequate and should be rejected

June 14 2014

To: Eric P. Summa, Chief, Environmental Branch, Planning and Policy Division, US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District

From: Thomas J. Goreau PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Re: Finding of No Significant Harm for Broward Segment II Beach Project and failure to require an Environmental Impact Statement
The US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) issued on August May 14 2014 a Finding Of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the placement of sand on Broward County Segment II, and stated that this project “will have no significant impact on the quality of the human environment”, that it “will not jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species of adversely impact any designated “critical habitat”” and therefore “does not require an Environmental Impact Statement”.

The first two claims are entirely incorrect, and therefore the failure to require a full environmental impact assessment amounts to dereliction of ACE’s responsibility to the public.

The coral reefs of the hard ground ridge closest to the beach from Lauderdale-By-The-Sea (LBTS) to the Port Everglades channel have the largest area and highest live coral cover of any coral reefs now remaining in Florida, and the only ones that can be swum to from shore.

These reefs have spectacular forests of endangered and threatened staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and huge ancient colonies of pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus), star coral (Montastrea annularis), great star coral (Montastrea cavernosa), and more than a dozen additional reef building coral species.

The best reef is on the ridge closest to the beach, with up to around 40% live coral cover, almost certainly the largest area of coral remaining in Florida. This reef and was entirely unknown to the scientific community until it was first described by T. J. Goreau & D. Clark, 2001, Reef Protection in Broward County, Florida, Global Coral Reef Alliance White Paper:

http://www.globalcoral.org/reef_protection_in_broward_count.htm

This fundamental study is not cited. The reason the reef was unknown to Florida reef scientists and coral reef monitoring programs until then was because they dived from boats, and dived only on the reef ridges further from the beach, which average only around 1% live coral cover. Nevertheless the reef was well known to shore divers because it was closest to shore. This area is where the reefs come closest to shore, and are therefore most vulnerable to being buried by sand and damaged by turbidity from fill dumped on the beaches.

Most importantly the coral reef area nearest to the beach is overwhelmingly dominated by the endangered staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, which is THE MOST SEDIMENT SENSITIVE CARIBBEAN CORAL SPECIES. No discussion is made of the abundance of this coral or it’s extreme sensitivity to sediments in this document!

The stretch of beach from LBTS to Port Everglades is the only remaining nearshore coral reef habitat in Southeast Florida because it is the only stretch of shore where sand has not been dumped on the beaches. In all other parts of SE Florida the nearshore reefs were killed when they were damaged by dredged sand dumped on the beaches, and no prior baseline studies were ever done in those areas. Only the oldest divers now remember the magnificent reefs that were killed. The reef adjacent to Segment II is the last remaining nearshore reef in SE Florida.

The claim by ACE that there will be no damage to the adjacent endangered and threatened species habitats is based on the claim that the sand will not move from the beach and bury the adjacent hardground. This is based on mathematical models that “show” that the sand will not move beyond an “equilibrium toe of fill”, but this result is due to faulty mathematical assumptions in models that consider average conditions, but do not include hurricanes or winter storms. The fact is that in every other place where sand was dumped on the beach the sand quickly buried the nearshore hardground and killed the corals, as the old divers can tell them.

There are many erroneous statements regarding coral reefs in this document. Specifically some of the most egregious are:

1. Once again the claim is made (page 75) that there will be no sediment movement beyond the Equilibrium Toe Of Fill. This is an artificial line that has no natural basis in reality whatsoever, being purely the artifact of a totally inadequate mathematical model that does not describe reality at all, because this model represents average conditions and does not include hurricanes or winter storms, which are consistently observed to bury offshore hardgrounds next to beach dredge-fill dumping (“renourishment”) projects. I have personally observed this on Broward Segment III and Broward Segment I, and USACE promised that no dredge-fill dumping would be allowed on Segment II unless the environmental impact assessments of Segments III and I showed no hardground burial. Why has this promise been ignored and why was the burial of hardground communities in those areas not documented in the EA and FONSI? The amount of sand dumped on the beach is well known, and most of it was immediately eroded away, even before the dumping was finished. The beach profiles before, during, and after should have been documented. Why were they not used to calculate the mass balance of the sand dumped, that which remained, and that which was eroded away to adjacent habitats?

2. The irresponsible claim (page 83) that sediment will cause no harm to staghorn coral is totally false (see above), and the claim that dumping sand will cause more erosion that will uncover more previously buried hardground is reductio ad absurdum.

3. The claim (page 103) that this project does not violate E.O. 13089 is clearly false because of 2 above.

4. The alleged “mitigation” is a costly joke, because the laboratories involved and the methods they use simply won’t work in the medium or long term.

5. The best coral reef restoration project in Florida, the Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Biorock project, which has around 40% live coral cover, is directly threatened by the proposed Segment II beach dredge-fill dumping project. That is to say at a time when corals are under severe threat, efforts made to restore them may be destroyed by this project.

In effect ACE, by accepting this grossly inadequate EA, has buried its head in the sand by denying the impacts this sand will have in burying the immediately adjacent areas of the best populations of threatened and endangered coral reef species left in Florida. This is a serious dereliction of their public responsibility in an age of environmental awareness, and a violation of E.O 13089.

We cannot allow the last good nearshore reefs in SE Florida to be killed like all the rest! We call on the Army Corp of Engineers to revoke this irresponsible “Finding Of No Significant Impact” and failure to require a full Environmental Impact Statement.


The EmeralPlanet broadcast: “Coral Reefs, The Oceans, and Climate Change”

Our outstanding guests concerning the importance of global coral reefs and oceans are:Segment ‘1’: Marcelian A. Cravat, Director/Producer, Angel Azul Documentary Film, (By Skype)*;

Segment ‘2’: Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance and President, Biorock International (By Skype and Telephone)*;

Segment ‘3’:  Marcelian A. Cravat, Director/Producer, Angel Azul Documentary Film (By Skype) and Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance and President, Biorock International (By Telephone)*;

Segment ‘4’:  Henri Georges Polgar, Executive Director, PanAmerican – PanAfrican Association (In-Studio) and *(In-Studio Skype/Telephone Back-Up) for Segments ‘1’, ‘2’; and ‘3’.

Angel Azul marks the environmental documentary debut of filmmaker Marcelina (Marcy) A. Cravat who explores the creation of hauntingly beautiful human like sculptures that eventually find their place on the Caribbean Sea floor. The artist is British born Jason deCaires Taylor who bonded with the sea as a boy living abroad in exotic places where coral reefs were his playground. Ocean discovery became his passion and from that grew a deep connection that would define his work as an adult.