Recharging Indonesian marine biodiversity

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
Scientific Advisor, Biorock Indonesia

Indonesia has the largest and most biodiverse coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses of any country in the world. Sadly, all are under severe pressure. Around 95% of the coral reefs have been badly damaged or degraded from bombing, poisons, soil runoff, sewage and chemical pollution, new diseases, and bleaching caused by global warming. More than half the mangroves have been cut and dredged out for shrimp ponds, around half of which have been abandoned due to shrimp diseases. Their loss is causing severe coastal flooding in adjacent, now unprotected, land, such as Jakarta, North Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and across South East Asia. Seagrass beds are dying as they are buried in mud from eroded soils washed away from jungles that are being deforested, logged, and converted to oil palm plantations, and as increased sewage and agricultural fertilizers from land trigger harmful algae blooms that smother seagrass and coral reefs. As Indonesia’s priceless coastal ecosystems vanish, fisheries are collapsing, beaches washing away, and rare endemic species may be lost forever.

Sulawesi lies in the central core area of the highest biodiversity in Indonesia, the “heart of the heart” of global marine species diversity. Those reefs that have not been bombed, poisoned, or bleached have the highest coral cover, biodiversity, and growth in the world. The incredible diversity of this area is due to many unique environmental and historical factors, too many to cover briefly here, but which will be covered in a future book on coral reefs. Since GCRA spends almost all our time regenerating the most damaged reefs where only a last few dying corals survive under severe stress, we fully appreciate the need to save the last and finest coral reefs remaining before they too vanish from global warming and pollution.

There is an urgent need for new methods to regenerate damaged coastal ecosystems to maintain the shore protection, fisheries, tourism, and biodiversity services they provide. In the face of accelerating global warming, global sea level rise, and pollution the old ways of restoring these ecosystems have proven to be expensive failures, when conventional coral fragment farms are catastrophically wiped out by bleaching, diseases, and hurricanes, and mangroves and seagrasses laboriously transplanted are washed away by increasingly strong storm waves before their roots can grow. As these stresses increase, future long term success in regenerating these crucial ecosystems can only come with regenerative methods that greatly increase the settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to extreme environmental stresses from high temperature, mud, pollution, and waves. Biorock is the only method that does all these, not just for corals but for all marine animals and plants. Biorock reefs keep entire ecosystems alive during extreme stresses that would kill them, and regenerate entire ecosystems even in severely polluted areas where there has been no natural recovery. Around 500 Biorock Coral Arks built by Biorock Indonesia teams in Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi, Java, Sumbawa, and Ambon are growing about half of all the coral species in the world, and dramatically increasing the marine biodiversity around them.

GCRA recently filmed prime coral reefs in North Sulawesi with Take Action Films, who are preparing a documentary on long term change in coral reefs. At many of these magnificent sites the shallow reefs are still completely covered with huge table corals, up to 4 to 5 meters across. Deeper waters are dominated by soft corals and sponges. But despite their magnificence, these reefs are not invulnerable to global warming, new coral diseases, and land-based pollution.

Shallow reefs are dominated by table corals, this site is a relatively “poor” reef, it has some of the lowest coral cover, coral size, and diversity seen in these dives
Drop off walls like this are completely covered in bright soft corals and tunicates
This wall site is dominated by trees of the spectacular green-black coral Tubastrea micrantha, and sponges
Large gorgonians are common

But all is not perfect in this underwater Paradise. In 2016 and 1998 high temperature bleaching events killed more than 95% of the corals in reefs across southern Indonesia, and such events are getting more frequent and more severe because of global warming. The hardiest coral species of all, and the last to die from severe bleaching stress and pollution, were found in 2018 to be dying from new disease outbreaks in areas down-current from large shrimp and fish farms. The work of GCRA’s James Cervino and colleagues strongly suggests that these poorly studied diseases are caused by shellfish pathogenic bacteria and viruses spreading from shrimp and fish farms. Working in research partnership with Institut Pertanian Bogor, Indonesia’s top agricultural and fisheries research university, Biorock Indonesia and the Global Coral Reef Alliance hope to identify the pathogens causing the new coral disease outbreaks and determine how they are linked to commercial mariculture.

In November 2018 Biorock Indonesia trained local teams in Ambon, to save the last corals left in badly polluted Ambon Bay:

Ambon Bay is a model for restoring damaged reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses in severely polluted areas like Jakarta Bay, Surabaya, Makassar, Balikpapan, and all the other coastal cities imperiled by sea level rise all along the shores of South East Asia.

Outbreaks of coral eating snails and starfish are also making severe inroads on prime reefs.

This large soft coral has been eaten in patches by two large cowrie snails with black tissue covering their white shells, above the finger, which points to a mass of brown eggs laid on the soft coral tissue. Another mass of white eggs of a different species were seen nearby on the same coral. Although the snail eats the soft coral, it does not kill it, and previously damaged, now recovering, portions are seen. The damage done by Drupella snails to hard corals is vastly more severe, and is be worse than Crown of Thorns damage in many places

In the Red Sea islands off the coast of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the early 1960s the late Professor Tom Goreau first discovered how Acanthaster starfish eat corals by extruding their stomach out through their mouth, covering and digesting coral tissue, and then pulling their stomach back inside their mouth. He had first collected live specimens of Acanthaster starfish at Bikini Atoll in 1947, when they lived in deep caves and only came out at night. It is not known what predator they were hiding from that controlled their populations at that time. In the late 1960s, when huge swarms were first documented in the Western Pacific, he led studies of major outbreaks in Saipan, Guam, and Palau. Swarms of half a million or more starfish migrated around entire islands eating all the corals, until they starved to death because there were no more corals left to eat. The reefs then recovered over a decade or so, but only if they were in prime quality water free from global warming, pollution, disease, and other human impacts, until a new swarm of starfish grows and eats them. Recovery was rapid in the old days, a decade or so, but now recovery is exceptionally rare because of accelerating human-caused environmental deterioration.

In the finest reef seen, with spectacular coral cover and diversity, we found and removed a small herd of coral eating crown of thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci
Removing the starfish has to be done very carefully because they are covered with toxic spines. In this case the only tools we had were a small bag and a pointer stick
This coral, broken and flipped over by a storm or by anchor damage, is being turned back over to its right side

Also in 2018 an earthquake in Lombok did damage to many Biorock projects in the Gili Islands, mostly to the power supplies destroyed in fallen buildings. The Gili Eco Trust, our local partner, has been busy repairing the damage.

Despite all these threats, Indonesia still has the world’s largest and most diverse coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grasses, but in the future they will be even more threatened than before when global warming, global sea level rise, and pollution, and human pressures get worse.

Biorock Indonesia, GCRA’s partner, is doing its best to train local groups to set up community-managed Biorock Coral Arks across Indonesia to regenerate entire ecosystems. The Global Coral Reef Alliance’s Thomas Sarkisian recently tested new, much more efficient power systems, needing much less maintenance in Bali, and Biorock Indonesia hopes to upgrade the performance of projects across the archipelago as soon as funds can be raised. At the same time Biorock Indonesia & GCRA are working to develop and expand sustainable community-based mariculture technologies for corals, fishes, lobsters, oysters, giant clams, sea grass, mangroves, and many other species. We thank Take Action film for their support in getting to these sites.

Biorock beach regeneration expands

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
Scientific Advisor, Biorock Indonesia

The severely eroded beach at Pulau Gangga Resort, North Sulawesi, Indonesia that was naturally regenerated at record rates with Biorock Anti Wave (BAW) reefs (Goreau & Prong, 2017) continued to grow throughout 2018, even through the monsoon season when they normally would have eroded. A second set of BAW reefs on another side of the island grew back an additional severely eroded beach within months of installation, during the monsoon erosion season on that side of the island. Coral, barnacle, oyster, sea urchin, crab, fish populations, and seagrass and sand-producing calcareous algae continue to increase around the BAW reefs.

When the project began in early 2016 there was a 1.5 meter high erosion cliff in the sand right at the front edge of the beach huts, which were about to be moved inland before they could fall into the sea. The tree at center had collapsed on its side into the sea. The fallen horizontal trunk is now buried underneath the sand and a former side branch is now forming a new vertical trunk. Most of the beach growth took place in the first three months as the beach profile turned from concave to convex, but the beach has continued to grow continuously since, throughout both calm and rough monsoon seasons. On this beach erosion is caused by winds from the northwest (at left) during the Australian Monsoon.

From above. By late 2018 the high tide mark had moved seaward by about 10 meters, and the low tide mark by about 15 to 20 meters, as the beach steadily grows.

Looking south beyond the end of the project, the naturally widened beach has extended to the southern end of the island. Strong longshore currents carry sand from bottom to top along the beach. At low tide the tops of a new set of BAW reefs installed by Paulus Prong in mid 2018 can be seen at top left. The unprotected beach on that side had continued to erode after the first beach grew back, so Paulus Prong installed a new set of BAW reefs in front of the eroding beach in mid 2018. That beach had eroded at the opposite season from winds from the southeast during the South East Asian Monsoon.

In mid 2018 the tree at top left was about to fall down because the sand underneath it had completely washed away, the trunk was hanging in the air supported by horizontal roots from the land side, and an erosion cliff about 1 meter high ran along the top left of the image. Beach growth in less than six months is now burying the BAW structures that were closest to the shore.

Beach regeneration at record rates appears due to the fact that wave energy is dissipated by diffraction and refraction through BAW reefs, with little erosion-causing wave reflection, always caused by solid sea walls, and to growth of new sand around structures by calcareous algae. Rates of beach growth naturally depends on wave energy, tidal range, and longshore currents, so will be different at every site.

These extraordinary results suggest that BAW reefs could also turn severely eroding beaches into growing ones at many other places, especially low-lying islands like Pulau Gangga that are already suffering from flooding,caused by global sea level rise and death of coral reefs by global warming.

Read also and watch

Happy Winter Solstice! 2018 GCRA activities report


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

BARONG & RANGDA, Biorock sculpture of the quintessential Balinese myth of the struggle between good and evil, installed December 14 2018 in honor of late Balinese ecotourism pioneer Agung Prana.


Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest areas and highest biodiversity of coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass ecosystems, continued to be the major focus of GCRA activities in 2018, in collaboration with our local partner, Biorock Indonesia.


Sulawesi is the centre of global marine species diversity, the “heart of the heart” of the richest variety of species in the world’s oceans. The GCRA team, working with Take Action Films, a Toronto documentary group, filmed spectacular coral reefs in North Sulawesi. We found, and removed, Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) eating corals in the finest reefs. Although these reefs have the highest live coral cover and diversity in the world, they are not invulnerable to stresses caused by humans, in particular global warming and new diseases. 10 Biorock reefs at Pulau Gangga Dive Resort, which had been off power for around 8 years, were put back under power and immediately began growing again, with spectacular corals and fishes. The severely eroded beach at southwestern Pulau Gangga, which Biorock shore protection reefs grew back naturally at record rates (at a fraction of the cost of a seawall that would have increased erosion in front of it), continued to grow wider, higher, and longer throughout 2018, throughout the monsoon season when it would previously erode.  Corals are settling on the Biorock structures and growing very rapidly, as are the surrounding seagrasses, while fishes, sea urchins, barnacles, oysters, and crabs have built up dense populations. A second severely eroded beach on another side of the same island was grown back in months during the erosion season with Biorock shore protection reefs built by Paulus Prong and a local team trained by GCRA. These projects were shown to the Mayor of the local fishing village, which is suffering severe beach erosion and flooding of land because of death of their shallow coral reefs, and community-managed Biorock shore protection, reef restoration, and sustainable mariculture projects were discussed.


Over a hundred Biorock reefs, each a different size and shape, continue to grow and provide fish habitat, creating an ecotourism attraction that has turned Pemuteran village from the poorest on the island to one of the most prosperous. The Biorock projects have received many international environmental awards, including the United Nations Equator Award for Community Based Development and the Special UNDP Award for Oceans and Coastal Management. Biorock reefs increased live coral cover from around 1-5% after the severe bleaching event of 1998, up to 95-99% in less than ten years, with spectacular coral settlement and growth, increasing the biodiversity of corals and fishes above what it had originally been before the bleaching event. Another severe bleaching event in 2016, coincident with severe damage from heavy waves, and severe infestations of coral-eating Crown of Thorns starfish and Drupella snails, decreased the live coral cover of nearby reefs below 5%. The Biorock projects showed an interesting pattern. Biorock reefs under continuous electrical trickle charge had almost no coral mortality during the bleaching event, while those under power only 6-8 hours a day suffered almost complete coral mortality, like surrounding reefs. Similar results were seen at around a hundred Biorock projects at Gili Trawangan run by our local partner, the Gili Eco Trust, headed by Delphine Robbe. Community-based Biorock projects in Pejarakan, Bali had almost complete survival through the severe bleaching event that caused nearly complete mortality on nearby reefs. These results reiterate what was found in the Maldives in 1998, and Thailand in 2010, that Biorock is the only method that saves entire reefs from dying from bleaching, if they are under continuous power. Biorock Coral Arks are helping save around half the world’s coral species from extinction from global warming. The Biorock Centre team in Pemuteran, led by Komang Astika, has been vigorously propagating corals, and there has been high natural settlement of new corals in the Biorock electrical fields, which is not seen further away. Young corals are growing vigorously and the Biorock team is growing back reef coral cover and diversity once again. The Pemuteran Sea Festival in mid-December drew crowds of thousands of people, and more than 50 divers joined in to install a stunning new Biorock reef, in the form of Barong and Rangda, the two characters of the quintessential Balinese myth. This new structure was dedicated to the memory of the late Agung Prana, owner of Taman Sari Resort in Pemuteran, a leader of Balinese ecotourism based on restoring beautiful gardens on both land and in the sea. Without him these projects would not have happened. Within a day most of the rust on the new steel structure had disappeared, limestone began growing on it, and new coral growth was visible.

Kalimantan (Borneo)

Last year Indonesia was for a few brief weeks the world’s largest CO2 emitter when drought conditions led to massive fires in peat soil that had been clear cut for oil palm plantations. GCRA and Biorock Indonesia assessed illegally cut mangroves in East Kalimantan (Borneo), with Willie Smits and the Arsari Enviro Industri team. We will work with them to use Biorock Technology to greatly increase rates of above and below ground growth of mangroves, ameliorate soil acidity, reverse peat oxidation, create huge carbon sinks, provide orangutan sanctuaries, and produce biofuels from the endemic swamp palm Nypa fruticans, which produces as much energy from sustainable tapping of flower stalks as sugar cane does, and without cutting down the plant. These projects are planned to start next year, as well as projects to grow corals 20 kilometers up-river, which enormous tides make salty enough for coral growth. These projects may allow Indonesia, which has the world’s largest and most diverse mangroves and sea grasses, to restore mangrove and sea grass peat soils and hopefully become the world’s largest and most cost-effective carbon sink.


The Biorock Ambon team held training workshops, installed new Biorock structures with local participants, and maintained the older projects in Halong, Ambon Bay. Ambon Bay was once famous for its clear waters and spectacular coral gardens. Corals were among the thousands of Ambon plants and animals described by the great blind naturalist Rumphius in the 1600s, and in the 1800s Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of Evolution, was astonished to look over the side of a boat at coral reefs that were just as magnificent and beautiful ecosystems as the Indonesian forests he studied, but he could not go into the water to see them. Since then, deforestation, agriculture, urbanization, sewage, garbage, and plastics have killed almost all the coral reefs in Ambon Bay, with the last remaining remnant in Halong. Biorock projects are now bringing them back.


The Biorock Indonesia team, led by Prawita Tasya Karissa and Ricky Soerapoetra, met with the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and the United Nations Development Program to plan future large-scale reef and fisheries restoration projects all across Indonesia. A collaborative research program was formally signed with the Institut Pertanian Bogor (Bogor Agricultural University), which will be led by two of Indonesia’s leading young coral researchers, Hawis Maduppa and Beginer Subhan, who both did their Master’s thesis on Biorock projects.


100 Biorock projects at Gili Trawangan were affected by the severe earthquake that hit Lombok. There was no electricity for months, and many power supplies were lost under collapsing buildings. While there was little damage to the Biorock reefs themselves, nearby reef blocks broke loose and slid downslope. Delphine Robbe of the Gili Eco Trust, the local GCRA partner, has led heroic efforts under difficult circumstances to repair the damage and get the Biorock projects back under power.





Six new Biorock coral reefs were built and installed in Cozumel, the world’s most popular dive site, in collaboration with the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Foundation, funded by Minecraft. These are illuminated at night with LED lights, attracting zooplankton, fishes, and squids.

Costa Maya

Sites along the Costa Maya, the east coast of Yucatan, from Cancun to Mahahual, were assessed for water quality problems, resulting from tourism over-development and failure to treat sewage, which are causing rapid death of the corals by smothering from harmful algae blooms and coral diseases.  Algae were collected for nutrient analysis to identify the sources of pollution causing their proliferation. This work was done with Mexican diving organizations, including Sea Shepherds Mexico, and Mexican algae experts, including Pamela Herrera.


Plans moved forward to develop some of the world’s largest tidal energy resources, in the Sea of Cortes territories of the Comca’ac people, Mexico’s smallest and most remarkable indigenous culture. Expected to start next year they will produce electricity, water from desalination, and Biorock building materials, and develop sustainable mariculture of endemic endangered marine species.



Meetings were held with Guna Indian representatives to plan Biorock coral reef shore protection projects to protect their islands from severe erosion. A quarter of the 50 inhabited islands are now being abandoned because they can no longer be protected from global sea level rise, making their people climate change refugees. Biorock will also be used to restore coral reef fisheries habitat, especially for the lobsters on which the Guna economy depends, and to develop sustainable ecotourism.  GCRA’s study of coral reefs in front of the Panama Canal was used by the Panamanian environmental law group Centro de Incidencia Ambiental to get a Panamanian Supreme Court order issued to halt the dredging for landfill 100 meters away that threatened these reefs. The developers have ignored the legal orders.


GCRA, the Grenada Coral Reef Foundation, and the Grenada Fisheries Department Marine Protected Area Programme held Biorock training workshops for local students and fishermen, in Gouyave, Grenada’s largest fishing village, and in Carriacou, the largest island of the Grenadines. At each site eight Biorock reefs were built and installed by workshop participants. It is planned to greatly expand these projects in the coming year.



GCRA assessed severe coastal erosion sites in Maui where beaches have washed away, cliffs are collapsing, and condominiums, houses, and roads are on the verge of collapsing into the sea. Traditional sea wall and breakwater strategies have proven repeatedly to be costly failures. GCRA is proposing use of Biorock shore protection reefs with local partners, and met with local regulatory agencies to evaluate the barriers to getting permission to use much lower cost and much more effective Biorock strategies to grow back beaches and restore coral reefs.



At the Amsterdam International Summit on Fisheries and Mariculture Tom Goreau gave an invited keynote talk on “Biorock Technology: A Novel Tool for Large-Scale Whole-Ecosystem Sustainable Mariculture Using Direct Biophysical Stimulation of Marine Organisms’ Biochemical Energy Metabolism”.



GCRA repaired storm damage to cables at the Biorock Elkhorn reef in Westmoreland, Jamaica, strengthening the structure and adding more corals. This is the first Biorock coral restoration project in 25 years in Jamaica, where the technology was originally invented and developed. Proposals were prepared with the Caribbean Maritime University, Portland Bight Marine Protected Area, Caribbean Coastal Areas Management Foundation, and the Half Moon Bay Fishermens’ Cooperative to use Biorock shore protection reefs to grow back Jamaica’s most important recreational beach at Hellshire, St. Catherine, which has entirely washed away, and to restore the dead reef that used to protect it.



At the SIDS DOCK Side Event “Blue Guardians: Building Partnerships for the SIDS Blue Economy” in Apia, at the United Nations Inter-Regional Meeting for Small Island Developing States Tom Goreau gave an invited keynote talk on “Recharging SIDS coral reefs, fisheries, sea grass, mangroves, beaches, low coasts and islands, and producing CO2-removing construction material”. He met with the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, looked at community-managed Giant Clam farms that could greatly benefit from Biorock Technology, and had meetings to develop sustainable mariculture, reef restoration, and shore protection projects in Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Fiji, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and the Cook Islands.



At the Global Eco Asia Pacific Tourism Conference in Townsville Tom Goreau gave an invited keynote talk on “Ecotourism Can Help Save Indonesia’s Coral Reefs”, showing how devastated reefs, beaches, and fisheries have been restored by Biorock Indonesia in front of Indonesian hotels. He pointed out for every reef we save, thousands are being lost, but if every hotel were legally mandated to restore the dead reefs in front of their eroding beaches, tourism could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. GCRA worked with Dr. Peter Bell of the University of Queensland (who discovered that land-based sources of nutrients from agricultural fertilizers, cattle farms, and sewage had killed around three quarters of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals even before coral bleaching killed most of the rest, as Tom Goreau had accurately predicted 20 years ago) to re-evaluate the changes to the coral reefs at Low Isle. Low Isle is unique in the history of coral reefs, because it was intensively studied in 1928-1929 by the Cambridge University Great Barrier Reef Expedition, led by Sir Maurice Yonge, who adopted the Goreau family as his scientific heirs. Low Isle, and many other reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, were first photographed underwater, and from the air, in 1950, by Fritz Goreau. They were photographed again in 1967 by his son Thomas F. Goreau, and again in 1998 by his son Thomas J. F. Goreau. These photographic records, unknown in Australia, show dramatic long-term changes in the coral reefs before any Australian coral reef scientists began to study them. The GCRA team also looked at coastal fringing coral reefs with local Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal communities, who had seen their reefs and sea grasses killed by mud and nutrients washed in from sugar cane farms, and with local organic farmer Andre Leu who has increased his soil carbon six-fold, greatly increasing soil water storage during recent record high temperatures and droughts, and greatly reducing soil erosion and nutrient loss onto the coral reefs. Meetings were held with Great Barrier Reef Heritage and local groups trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef’s last corals, to develop educational exhibits of changes in reef conditions over the last 90 years and to restore them.



GCRA’s Margaret Goreau has begun to scan the Goreau collection of coral reef photographs from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, the world’s largest. They show a lost world that had largely vanished before any other diving scientists saw it. These will form part of full-length documentary film that shows the changes in reefs around the world since they were first documented, the causes of their deterioration, and how deterioration can be reversed. Take Action Films, a Toronto-based documentary film group directed by Andrew Nisker, was funded by the Canadian Government to film the long-term changes shown by this unique photograph collection. Take Action films recently released a documentary, Ground Wars, on the environmental and health impacts of golf course chemicals, featuring Tom Goreau and James Cervino of GCRA showing the impacts of golf course fertilizers and chemicals killing corals on Bahamas reefs by causing overgrowth by harmful algae blooms and coral disease epidemics.



Tom Goreau met with the Ahiarmiut Inuit community in Arviat, Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic. They were the only inland Inuit people, known as the “Caribou Eskimo” or the “People of the Deer”. He brought photographs taken in 1954 by his grandfather, of the last year that the Ahiarmiut people lived on their ancestral tundra lands, just before they were starved out by the collapse of the caribou populations caused by over-hunting. Three of the oldest people in the community, shown in the photographs as young people or children, were still alive, remembered his grandfather well, and could identify all the people in the photographs. Plans were developed to seek funds to scan the entire photograph collection to be made available to the community, who were overjoyed to see them. Discussions were also held about their experiences of climate change, in one of the fastest warming parts of the world. The seasons have dramatically changed because of global warming, new plants, animals, birds, and insects are invading the tundra from the south. Despite global warming, this is one of the few places NOT experiencing global sea level rise. The land is rising rapidly, bouncing back up from the melting of 3 kilometers of ice at the end of the last Ice Age, so islands that were only reachable by boat are now part of the mainland, the rivers that they used to kayak up to hunt caribou are now too shallow, vast numbers of ponds are now drying up, the organic peat on their bottoms are oxidizing and feeding CO2 into the atmosphere, the period of snow cover is decreasing and the vegetation becoming taller, so the land absorbs much more heat. Their entire way of life is threatened by global warming.



The Biorock oyster and salt marsh restoration projects by James Cervino, Rand Weeks, and Tom Goreau successfully restored these ecosystems at the Superfund toxic waste dump at College Point, Queens, New York City and built up a new beach over 11 years that was not damaged by Hurricane Sandy, which caused tremendous erosion elsewhere. In 2018, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which had permitted the oyster and salt marsh restoration project, built a huge storm drain that flushed contaminated runoff straight onto the beach we had built up over 11 years, and washed it away with huge erosional gully in just a few months. We are trying to get them to mitigate the damages.



The Talanoa Dialog is a new mechanism to submit important new sources of independent information to the UNFCCC Negotiators. GCRA’s Tom Goreau, Ray Hayes, and Ernest Williams submitted a GCRA White Paper entitled: We Have Already Exceeded the Upper Temperature Limit for Coral Reef Ecosystems, Which are Dying at Today’s CO2 Levels.  Kevin Lister, Sev Clarke, Michael MacCracken, Alan Gadian, Tom Goreau, and Ray Hayes submitted  The essential role and form of integrated climate restoration strategy; the setting of targets and timescales; the methodologies and funding options. We can only hope that the world’s governments act immediately to reverse global warming by putting the dangerous excess CO2 back into the soil in time to prevent the extinction of coral reefs, and many other ecosystems. Political irresponsibility, willful ignorance, and greed are causing accelerated global warming and sea level rise, which will result in catastrophic melting of the polar ice caps, eventually causing 50 meters or more of global sea level rise, forcing billions of people from their homes, which will take millions of years for nature to undo. Politicians lying about global climate change to keep a few campaign donors filthy rich from fossil fuels are committing capital crimes against the environment.



Tom Goreau spoke at the Boston opening of “Symbiotic Earth”, a film about the late scientific genius Lynn Margulis, about his family’s personal ties to her since the 1940s. Tom Goreau interviewed famous linguistic theorist, social critic, and philosopher Noam Chomsky on the origins of the movement for social responsibility of scientists and engineers, based on the 1969-1970 MIT student strike against weapons research on campus. This was filmed by Werner Grundl and Julie O’Neill of Videosphere, a Cambridge documentary group, and is planned to be part of a documentary and book.

Updates on Biorock Ambon project

Today the Biorock Indonesia team, led by Komang Astika and Sandhi Raditya, placed the three new Biorock reefs installed yesterday under power in the Inner Ambon Bay.

All are now working, along with the 5 Biorock reefs previously installed, a church, a mosque and the three part symbol of Pertamina, the sponsor of the project.

The new structures are shaped like the spices Ambon was famous for exporting in colonial days, the nutmeg and the clove, and the traditional symbol of Ambon, the Halaloe or Nunusaku.
Simplified Nunusaku
We would like to thank the hard working Biorock Ambon team:

Ruselan Sudharna, Gerald Istia, Christian Pattipeilohy, Zakarias Pakaila, Johannis Manuhutu, and the many volunteers, including the entire welding and boat transport team from Balai Pelatihan dan Penyuluhan Perikanan (the Ambon office of the Maluku Fisheries Department of the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs), Stefani Teria Salhuteru, Meltris Wenno, and Abdul Maskur Marasabessy of Moluccas Coastal Care, students from Universitas Pattimura, Oktovianus Kareis and Raflnicols of Mafispala, local environmental organizations Green Moluccas, and Trash Hero Ambon. We thank Stella Tupenalay, Ibu Raja of Negeri Halong for permission to install the project, and PT Pertamina for funding.

Ambon Bay was once famous for its beautiful corals, but the coral reefs have almost totally collapsed, and the Halong site now has the last corals left in Ambon Bay according to detailed surveys done by local NGO Moluccas Coastal Care. 
Read more about the Biorock Ambon Project 

We would like to thank the hard working Biorock Ambon team:
Ruselan Sudharna, Gerald Istia, Christian Pattipeilohy, Zakarias Pakaila, Johannis Manuhutu, and the many volunteers, including the entire welding and boat transport team from Balai Pelatihan dan Penyuluhan Perikanan (the Ambon office of the Maluku Fisheries Department of the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affairs), Stefani Teria Salhuteru, Meltris Wenno, and Abdul Maskur Marasabessy of Moluccas Coastal Care, students from Universitas Pattimura, Oktovianus Kareis and Raflnicols of Mafispala, local environmental organizations Green Moluccas, and Trash Hero Ambon. We thank Stella Tupenalay, Ibu Raja of Negeri Halong for permission to install the project, and PT Pertamina for funding.

Ambon Bay was once famous for its beautiful corals, but the coral reefs have almost totally collapsed, and the Halong site now has the last corals left in Ambon Bay according to detailed surveys done by local NGO Moluccas Coastal Care.   

Read more about the Biorock Ambon Project 

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!
Updates to this project can be found here
BIOROCK AMBON, November 18 2018, photos by Komang Astika and Sandhi Raditya

Acropora, Merulina, and Pocillipora


Euphyllia ancora






Spectacular Biorock coral growth videos


Spectacular coral growth on Biorock is seen in the three videos linked below.

Pemuteran, Bali

This video shows Biorock reef growth in Pemuteran, Bali at a site that had been almost barren of corals and fishes when the Biorock projects began 15 years earlier.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

This video shows the installation of a new Biorock reef in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, and the growth of corals on it one year later:


This video shows phenomenal growth of staghorn corals in Curaçao shown by time lapse photos:

To see Biorock results for longer time scales (11 years) please look at:

Managing Ornamental Coral Trade in Indonesia

A Case Study in Bali Province during the last seven years, a thesis dissertation at Xiamen University, Fujian, China by Sandhi Raditya Bejo Maryoto, Biorock Indonesia Maluku Project Officer, covers the rapid expansion of coral exports for the aquarium trade in Indonesia in general, and Bali in particular.

Indonesia plans to end export of wild corals and switch to 100% export of verifiably cultured corals by 2020. With the banning of coral exports by the Philippines, and most recently by Fiji (BBC Article), Indonesia now has a near-complete monopoly on global aquarium coral exports, so now would be a good time for Indonesia to accelerate the phase-out of wild coral exports.


The world ornamental coral trade continues to grow as the result of increasing demand for aquarium industries. Indonesia as a major exporter has distributed corals worldwide with the USA as the biggest market, followed by 87 other importing countries. Ditjen KSDAE (Directorate General for Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem) of MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forestry) and P2O-LIPI (Research Center of Oceanography – The Indonesian Science Institution) was mandated as a management and scientific authority, respectively, in this curio trade management in Indonesia which is highly referred to CITES provisions. The trade entangles numbers of fishermen, middlemen, wholesalers, and coral companies in advance of exportation. As reported by CITES, a total of 25,569,984 corals were traded from Indonesia in 1985 until 2014. More than 49% (12,719,104 pieces) of all corals were exported to the USA in the same period. As the trade directed to be more sustainable, cultured corals grew steadily during the last decade. BKSDA Bali (Conservation and Natural Resources Agency of Bali Province) also reported similar results in regional coral exportation from Bali. There were 9,583,821 pieces of ornamental corals, mostly were cultured corals, traded by coral companies based in Bali during 2010 – 2016, with annual growth rate of 19.06%. It constituted almost 60% of total Indonesia exportation and was carried out by 25 coral companies. Existing management measures e.g. quotas, licensing system, and spatial management through no-take zones have been put into effects despite still requires various improvements. More comprehensive studies and scientific data are therefore essential in decision making process to set out adaptive management strategies and thus ensuring sustainable coral trade.

Managing Ornamental Coral Trade Indonesia – Sandhi

Biorock™ Electric Reefs Grow Back Severely Eroded Beaches in Months

marine science and engineering

Biorock Electric Reefs Grow Back Severely Eroded Beaches in Months

Thomas J. F. Goreau 1,2  and  Paulus Prong 2,3

Global Coral Reef Alliance, 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Biorock Indonesia, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Pulau Gangga Dive Resort, Sulawesi 95253, Indonesia
Severely eroded beaches on low lying islands in Indonesia were grown back in a few months—believed to be a record—using an innovative method of shore protection, Biorock electric reef technology. Biorock shore protection reefs are growing limestone structures that get stronger with age and repair themselves, are cheaper than concrete or rock sea walls and breakwaters, and are much more effective at shore protection and beach growth. Biorock reefs are permeable, porous, growing, self-repairing structures of any size or shape, which dissipate wave energy by internal refraction, diffraction, and frictional dissipation. They do not cause reflection of waves like hard sea walls and breakwaters, which erodes the sand in front of, and then underneath, such structures, until they collapse. 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.
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coastal Sea Levels, Impacts and Adaptation)

1. Introduction
Accelerating global sea level rise is now causing almost all beaches worldwide to erode [1]. The current rate of sea level rise, now 3 mm/year [2], will accelerate greatly in the future as the melting of ice caps increases, masked by shorter term regional fluctuations driven by local weather [3]. IPCC projections of sea level rise are often thought by the public to represent the end point of sea level rise response to fossil fuel CO2, but in fact they are merely points along the first 5, 10, 20— or at most 100—years, of the initial rise of a curve that will continue to increase for thousands of years. The time horizons for IPCCC climate change projections were chosen for political purposes, not for scientific ones, and therefore miss the vast bulk of the real world long-term sea level and temperature responses to increased greenhouse gases [4].
Since the ocean holds nearly 93% of the heat in the Earth ocean-atmosphere-soil-vegetation-rock-ice system [5] and it takes around 1500 years for the ocean to mix and turn over [6], Earth’s surface will not fully warm up until after the deep ocean waters, now about 4 degrees above freezing, heat up. Global temperatures and sea levels lag thousands of years behind CO2 increases because of ocean mixing, so we have not yet really begun to feel the inevitable temperature and sea level responses. Because of these politically chosen time horizons, IPCC projections do NOT include more than 90% of the long-term climate response to changing CO2 [4,7-9]. By greatly underestimating the all too real long-term responses of temperature and sea level, they have lulled political decision makers into a false sense of complacency about the magnitude and duration of human-caused climate change or the urgency of reversing them before the really serious impacts hit future generations [4].
Improved estimates of long-term global climate impacts are made from actual paleoclimate records of changes in global CO2, temperature, and sea levels from the Antarctic ice cores, deep sea sediments, and fossil coral reefs over the last few million years [7,9]. The last time that global temperatures were 1-2 °C above today’s level, sea levels were about 8 m higher, crocodiles and hippopotamuses lived in swamps where London, England, now stands (Rhodes Fairbridge, 1987, personal communication) [10,11], and CO2 levels were around 270 ppm, around 40% lower than today [7,9]. Comparison of long-term global climate change records suggests that the steady state climate for the present (2017) CO2 concentration of 400 ppm, once the climate system has fully responded, are about 17 °C and 23 m above today’s levels [9]. We are committed to such changes even if there is no further CO2 increase starting right now because of the excess already in the atmosphere, unless that is reduced. No amount of emissions reduction can reduce excess atmospheric CO2, only increased natural carbon sinks with storage in soil and biomass carbon can draw down the dangerous excess in time to avert extreme long term changes [4,8,12], which would last for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Perhaps the largest cost of adaptation to climate change will be the cost of protecting low lying islands and coasts from being flooded by global sea level rise.
Beach erosion is largely controlled by refraction of offshore waves by bottom topography [13]. The reflection of waves by steep cliffs prevents any accumulation of sand at their bases. In contrast, shallow sandy beach fore-shores are almost always protected from waves by reefs, Waves are refracted as water passes through porous and permeable reef structures, without being reflected.
Conventional methods of shore protection rely on “hard” solid structures like sea walls and breakwaters that are designed to reflect waves, like rock cliffs. This concentrates all the energy of the wave at the hard, reflecting surface, and the force on the structure itself is twice the momentum of the wave due to the reversal of the wave direction vector [14,15]. The inevitable result of this energy focusing is that first all the sand is washed away in front of the structure, and then is scoured away underneath it until the structure settles, cracks, falls apart, and needs to be rebuilt. These structures protect what is behind them until they fall down, but they cause erosion in front of them and guarantee loss of sediment. All such structures are consequently ephemeral and will fall down sooner or later, depending on how large and strong they are.
This is well known to coastal engineers but most feel there is no alternative to impermeable solid walls, even though so called “porous” or “permeable” breakwaters, made of small distributed modules shaped like coral reefs, with holes within structures and passages between them, seem to protect shores with much less material and with greatly reduced reflection. But we could find no experimental or theoretical modeling literature on porous permeable structures like natural coral reef structures found by searching on Google Scholar. Most search results for porous breakwaters were for solid rock walls with crevices between stones rather than reef-like structures with a much greater range of pore and spacing sizes, capable of interacting with waves over larger wavelength ranges.
Coral reefs provide the most perfect natural shore protection, dissipating around 97% of incident wave energy by frictional dissipation [16]. Healthy reefs produce sand as well as protect it, and rapidly build beaches behind them. They are sand factories, generating vast amounts of new sand, largely remains of calcareous green and red algae. Every grain of white limestone sand on a tropical beach is the skeletal remains of a living coral reef organism. Once corals die from high temperatures, pollution, or disease, the previously growing and self-repairing reef framework starts to deteriorate and crumble from boring organisms that excavate the rock [17]. Because of the mass mortality of corals around the world caused by global warming [18-23], tropical beaches that were growing until recently have begun rapid erosion, and islands are washing away because of global sea level rise. 
Here we describe the results of a novel method of beach restoration—Biorock electric reef shore protection—which avoids the intrinsic physical flaws of hard reflective structures, and which grows beaches back at record rates at a lower cost, with less materials, and with much greater environmental benefits than seawalls. Biorock electric reefs are grown by low voltage electrolysis of sea water, which causes growth of limestone rock minerals dissolved in sea water over steel surfaces, which are completely protected from corrosion [24,25]. Biorock reef structures can be any size or shape, and are the only marine construction material that gets stronger with age and is self-repairing [26]. When grown slowly, less than 1-2 cm/year, this material is several times harder than Portland Cement concrete [25].
Biorock shore protection reefs are open mesh frameworks designed to permit water to flow through them, like coral reefs. The size and shape of the structures, and of the holes in them, determine their performance dissipating wave energy. The electricity needed for electrolysis is safe extremely low voltage (ELV) direct current provided by transformers, chargers, batteries, solar panels, wind mills, ocean current generators, or wave energy generators, depending on which source is most cost effective at the site [27].
Biorock reefs in Grand Turk survived the two worst hurricanes in the history of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which occurred three days apart and damaged or destroyed 80% of the buildings on the island [28]. Sand was observed to build up around the bases of Biorock reef structures. In contrast, concrete reef balls nearby caused such severe sand scour around and under them that they buried themselves into the sand, digging their own graves. Solid objects, by forcing bottom currents to accelerate as they diverge around them, cause erosion to a depth of about half the height of the structure, and about as wide as the structure height [29]. Biorock reefs, being permeable and porous to waves, had the opposite effect than reef balls, baffling waves, lowering their velocity, and causing sand deposition instead of erosion [30].
The first Biorock shore protection reef was built in front of a beach that had washed away at Ihuru Island, North Male Atoll, the Maldives, in 1997. Sand bags were being piled in front of trees and buildings that were falling into the sea, which the hotel thought they had no chance of saving. The Biorock reef was a linear structure parallel to the shore, 50 m long, about 5 m wide, and about 1.5 m high, built on eroded reef bedrock. The structure cemented itself solidly to the limestone bedrock with mineral growth. Waves were observed to slow down as they were refracted through the structure, dissipating energy by surface friction. Sand immediately began to accumulate on the shore line and under and around the reef, and the beach grew back naturally and rapidly in a few years, and stabilized with no further erosion, even though the 2004 Tsunami passed right over it [30]. Corals growing on the Biorock reef had 50 times (5000%) higher coral survival than the adjacent natural coral reef after the 1998 coral bleaching event [25]. For a decade after the bleaching event this resort had the only healthy reef full of corals and fishes in front of their beach in the Maldives. The hotel whose reef and beach were saved by the Biorock project turned the power off, with the result that the corals, no longer protected from bleaching by the Biorock process [31,32], suffered severe mortality in the 2016 bleaching event.
The second group of Biorock shore protection reefs were built at three eroding beach locations at Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia around 2010. These consisted of 4 to 6 separate reef modules designed to break waves up by slowing down separate portions of the wave front and driving the incoming wave front out of coherence, using less structural materials. The Biorock structures are shaped like an upside-down wave, which is optimal for dissipating wave energy, with no vertical surfaces to cause reflections, and so are called Biorock Anti-Wave structures (BAW). Although these structures were small, new beach growth was clearly visible at all sites within 8 months on Google Earth images [30]. One set of structures was of, and creation of a gap underneath it, so that it was on the way to falling down. One year later the gap underneath had completely filled in, and the sand had risen by about a meter to cover half the vertical wall height. The seawall on the neighboring property, built at the same time, but not protected by Bioorck, completely collapsed within a year [30]. The hotels whose beaches had been restored by the projects then turned the power off. Because the structures, no longer maintained, growing, or protected from rusting, are now collapsing, beach erosion has now resumed, with new sea walls being constantly built and falling down.
2. Materials and Methods
Pulau Gangga, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, has suffered progressive beach erosion. The index maps show its location on various scales (Figure 1a-d), and Google Earth images show the rapid erosion of the beach between 2013 and 2014 (Figure 2a,b). The site is outside the typhoon belt because it is close to the Equator, but it is affected by both the Australian and Indo-China Monsoons. From around December through May the winds and waves are usually from the southeast. A strong southward tidally-modulated current normally sweeps sand from north to south at the site.
The formerly wide sand beach had largely washed away by late 2015, leaving an erosion cliff about 1.36 m high along the shore, with trees falling into the sea, and beach pavilion buildings have had to be repeatedly torn down and moved inland. In front of the 200 m of severely eroded beach we built 48 Biorock Anti Wave reefs in a staggered design to dissipate wave energy before it hits the beach. The time of installation, January 2016, was just before the monsoon season when erosion takes place on this beach, and was done as fast as possible before waves made installation difficult.
48 Biorock Anti Wave reefs were deployed in the sea grass beds in front of the eroding beach in January 2016. They were arrayed in twelve groups of four, each group powered by a single power supply located 100 m away on land, connected by electrical cables dug into the sand (Figures 3 and 4a-d). They grow thickest at the bottom, and thinnest on top. The bottom 10-20 cm of the structures were always submerged at low tide, but above this they were exposed to the air for various periods, depending on the tidal cycle. Since structures grow only when and where submerged in salt water, the bottoms are always growing, while the top grows only when submerged, about half of the time. The gabion baskets were deployed in a grid pattern (visible from aerial images below) at low tide in shallow sand, seagrass, and coral rubble.
The resort had previously purchased gabion wire baskets for stones to make a breakwater, not knowing that these would quickly rust and fall apart. Because these were already available, they were incorporated into the core of the Biorock Anti Wave structures, because the Biorock electrolysis process prevents any rusting of the steel. The rocks are bound in place by growth of minerals over the mesh and by prolific growth of barnacles, oysters, and mussels, preventing rock shifting in heavy surge from breaking the gabion. There are both advantages and disadvantages to the use of rock gabions in Biorock shore protection structures, as they can cause scour by acting as a near solid wall, but they cause more rapid initial results slowing wave erosion than a more open structure that does not incorporate them. Gabions are not an essential part of the design, in fact not using them makes BAW units much faster and cheaper to construct and deploy. In this study gabions were used only for convenience as they had been previously bought and were already on site. Not to include rocks at all relies purely on the growth of a biological reef to provide long-term growing shore protection, instead of that provided by the rocks.
The core of each structure was a double gabion basket, 1 m × 1 m × 2 m with the long dimension parallel to the shore. These were placed on the shallow sea floor at predetermined sites, with the long axis parallel to the shore, and filled in with rounded river stones (largely in the 20-50 cm size range). At the start, the rocks had clean surfaces with nothing growing on them. The gabion baskets were overlain with standard welded steel mesh bars used in local construction, spacing 15 cm, dimensions about 2.1 m by 5.4 m. These sheets were curved into an arc to fit over the top of the gabion basket, with the long dimensions at right angles, so that the long axis of the arc was perpendicular to the shore, oriented into the waves coming over the shelf edge coral reef. They were welded across at the base with support rebars and vertical bars to strengthen them. Each unit was carried by four people at low tide, placed over a gabion basket and wired to it with hose clamps and binding wire. The growth of minerals over the steel cement it firmly to any hard rock bottom, and cement sediment around the bases on sand or mud, firmly attaching the structure to the bottom. The structures sit on the bottom under their own weight and that of the rocks they contain.
Beach profiles were measured using the U-tube water level measuring method [32]. They are estimated to be accurate vertically to about a millimeter, and horizontally to about a centimeter, by repeated measurements. The beach profile before the start of the experiment was estimated from photographs taken before and after from the same positions with common objects of known size in the images for scale. The accuracy of the pre-project beach profile estimate is thought to be about 10 cm vertically and one meter horizontally. Unfortunately, the apparatus for making rapid and accurate beach profiles was not built until September 2016, eight months after the start of the project. A second set of measurements was made in January 2017, a year after the start of the project, after a severe storm and at several more intervals since then. Initial beach profiles were estimated by measuring the height of the erosion cliff at the start of the project using the measured height of concrete foundations as a scale.





Figure 1. The site shown on Google Earth Images of the location of the project (red star) on decreasing scales: (a) Indonesia, (b) North Sulawesi, (c) Pulau Gangga

(a) 23 May 2013

(b) 4 January 2014

(c) 15 December 2014

(d) 4 August 2017

Figure 2. Erosion of the beach prior to the project. Google Earth images from 2013 (a) and 2014 (bshowing short term changes in the beach before the project, the last available image taken near low tide a year before the project began in early 2016 (c), and the first image after the project, taken near high tide 1.5 years after (d). Notice the cores of the Biorock Anti Wave modules as white spots in the seagrass off the regenerated beach. Beach erosion beyond the project near the pier at the south was caused by storm waves from the southeast and longshore drift sand blockage by the solid rock pier. Waves from the northwest shown in (c) are typical during erosion of this westward facing beach. Note the row of pavilions (dark spots) on the edge of the beach erosion scarp and brown dying trees with roots exposed in (c) and how in (d) the roofs are now hidden by new leaf canopies due to prolific tree leaf regrowth after sand buildup around their roots.
Figure 3. Soon after start of the project, at low tide (wide angle image). The tops of the reef restoration structures are clearly visible. The eroded curve is the area where the beach grew back.





Figure 4. Aerial views, oblique at low tide (a) and vertical at high tide (b) on 12 March 2017, fourteen months after the installation, showing the Biorock Anti Wave structures (dark spots in sea grass beds). The northern edge of the project, on the same day at high (c) and low (d) tides. The Red spot in the last image two images is the northern limit of the project.
3. Results
The speed of beach regrowth astonished local residents. The formerly concave beach, ending in an eroding cliff, is now convex in its profile and growing. Large trees that had been dying after sand washed away, exposing their roots to sea water, have leafed out new canopies since the sand built up around their roots.
By the time of the first beach profile measurements the eroded beach had almost completely grown back and the erosion scarp, 1.36 m tall, was reduced to about 10 cm. About 80% of the beach grew back in less than 3 months and has continued to grow ever since, even during strong storm conditions that in the past caused severe erosion. Over the course of a year the beach has increased in height by more than a meter, and in width by more than 15 m, over a two hundred meter length, a conservative estimate of an increase of beach sand volume of 3000 cubic meters. Most of the gains occurred in the first two months, but have continued since (Figure 5a-g).
The beach growth in the first year was wider at the south than at the north. But there were interesting differences after a severe storm in early January, which caused some erosion of the southern end of the beach, while there was substantial growth of the central and northern sections. Since then the center and north have continued to grow, while the south has continued to erode slowly (Figure 6a-c).

(a) November 2015

(b) December 2015

(c) December 2015

(d) May 2016

(e) August 016

(f) November 2016

(g) January 2017

Figure 5. Before & after photos of beach taken at various times: (a) November 2015, beach looking north two months before start of project, tree falling into the sea and roots exposed at beach erosion scarp, (b) December 2015, one month before project, 1.36 m high erosion scarp and foundations of beach pavilions about to collapse near center of beach, (c) December 2015, one month before project, large old tree collapsing into the sea, leaves dying, roots exposed, (d) May 2016, 4 months after project installation, lower branches of fallen tree buried in new beach sand growth, roots buried, new growth, (e) August 2016, seven months after, (f) November 2016, ten months after, (g) January 2017, Twelve months after, soon after a severe storm, looking south. Most of the beach grew after the storm, even though this was the sort of event that had caused heavy erosion in the past. The south end, shown here, was worst affected.




Figure 6. Beach profiles, measured at different times for the north (a), center (b), and south (c). The Zero reference datum for the central profile is the top of the concrete pillar foundation at the left of the December 2015 photograph. A 1.36 m vertical cliff stood at what is now the zero distance, based on measurements from photographs. Dates of measurements: X and dashed line estimate from January 2016; KEY to symbols: B upward triangle, 21 September 2016; C square, 11 January 2017; D downward triangle, 11 March 2017, E circle, 10 July 2017.
There has been prolific growth of hard and soft corals all over the bases of the structures and in intervening areas (Figure 7a-e), prolific growth of sea grasses all around them, dense settlement and growth of barnacles, mussels, and clams on the rocks in the core of the BAW structures, and a rapid increase in juvenile fish and echinoderm populations. In addition, there has been prolific growth of sand-producing calcareous green and red algae around and between the structures.






Figure 7. Underwater images: One end of a Biorock Anti Wave structures at high tide soon after installation (a), growth of barnacles over smooth river stones inside the gabions (b), examples of rapid growth of corals, sea grasses, and other organisms under, over, and around their bases (ce).
Wave fronts are dissipated as they pass through the structures, breaking up the coherence of incoming wave fronts (Figure 8a-c). This dissipation behaves as refraction through permeable structures. But the wave interaction can include a reflective component once structures have grown to be solid with all pores filled in, or if the rock fill is too impermeable to transmit wave pressure through intervening spaces. In that case, sand-eroding scour will be caused, while purely refractive dissipation increases sand accumulation underneath and behind the structure. There is also a diffractive component caused by wave interaction with the metal structure spacing and lattice spacing, which appeared to damp waves at spatial scales that range from the spacing of the metal grid used (0.1 m), the size of the modules (1-5 m), and the spacing of the modules (roughly 10 m).




Figure 8. Diffraction of energy. Incoming wave energy dissipated by interaction with structure these photographs were taken in rapid succession, the middle picture appears brighter because of break in the clouds, and the photographer moved between the first two images. (a) approaching wave, (bwave starting to interact with mesh, (c) wave energy dissipated by friction.
4. Discussion
We are not aware of any other case in which a badly eroded beach has been grown back so uickly and naturally. In addition, the Biorock reefs have caused prolific growth of corals, barnacles, oysters, mussels, and seagrass, and created a juvenile fish habitat [30]. 
Biorock reefs can be any size or shape. Mineral growth extends up to the high tide mark. They can be built entirely subtidal, as at Ihuru, entirely exposed at low tide as at Gili Trawangan, or have only the tops exposed at low tide, as at Pulau Gangga. Since the structures grow only when submerged, those in the intertidal grow most on the bottom, and least on the top. The structures attach themselves solidly to bedrock, and cement loose sand around their bases. Whether the structures are entirely submerged or partially exposed affects their wave mitigating performance. Those that are fully submerged are never visible from shore and generate real coral reef communities or oyster and mussel reefs in muddier or colder waters. Those reefs located in the intertidal zone are visible at low tide, which may be aesthetically objectionable to those who want a clear ocean view from the beach, but they are more effective in protecting the shore if there is a storm during high tide, which would pass over deeper reef structures.
The size, shape, and spacing of the modules affect their performance, and cost. What is astonishing is that record beach growth was achieved with far less material and far lower cost than sea wall or a breakwater. Conventional reinforced concrete structures are made by first building a reinforcing bar frame, and the steel is a very small part of the total cost compared to cement, stone, wooden forms, and labor. Since steel in reinforced concrete structures invariably rusts, expands, and cracks the concrete, such structures have finite lifetimes, especially in salty coastal air. 
Biorock structural steel is completely protected from rusting, and the continuous growth of hard minerals makes it constantly stronger, and able to grow back first in areas that are physically damaged. The cost is far less than a reinforced concrete structure of the same size and shape, because instead of cement, rocks, labor, and wooden forms we simply provide an electrical supply instead. Estimates of Biorock reef costs range from $20-1290/m of shoreline depending on the size of the reef grown, while other methods range from $60-155,000/m, or 3-120 times more expensive [16]. The amount of electricity used is small, the entire Pulau Gangga beach restoration project uses about one air conditioner worth of electricity.
Shore protection provided by Biorock includes both production of new sand by prolific growth of calcareous algae around them, and physical protection from sand erosion by wave energy dissipation. The results of beach growth after the project was installed indicate that beach sand accumulation is a very dynamic function of wave and current interactions with reef structures. Biorock reef structures physically dissipate wave energy and reduce erosion at the shoreline, while also generating new sand. They should slow down transport of sand by north to south tidal currents at the site. That, and the interplay of the structures with waves coming from different directions, may explain why the unusual January 2017 storm seems to have transported sand in the reverse of the usual direction. Further measurements will reveal if this trend continues, or is reversed by sand production from increased calcareous algae growth around the structures.
Wave energy dissipation due to friction at the surface of the growing limestone minerals produced by the Biorock process is very quickly exceeded by the much larger, and rougher, surfaces provided by the prolific growth of corals, barnacles, sea grass, and all other living marine organisms as the structure becomes rapidly overgrown. The size, shape, and spacing of the structures, as well as the reef organisms growing on them, affect their performance as wave absorbers, and their designs can be readily changed by adding, or removing, sections as needed. Such structures can be designed to be oyster, mussel, clam, lobster, or fish habitat for highly productive and sustainable mariculture.
Biorock structures interact with waves over a very broad range of wavelengths, and are expected to produce wave diffraction on wavelength scales similar to the spacing of the structures—about 10 m—and over the spacing of the mesh—about 10 cm. Since the growing, self-repairing Biorock structures cannot be modelled by conventional hydrodynamic modeling schemes, it will be important to make physical measurements of wave energy around such structures to evaluate actual performance, and to optimize them for beach growth purposes.
The initial results of this project resulted in extraordinary beach growth, which could be improved with further experimentation under a wider range of conditions, and should be much more widely applied as a cost-effective beach restoration solution that uniquely restores marine ecosystem  services.
5. Conclusions
We have grown back severely eroded beaches naturally in months by growing Biorock electric reefs in front of them. These structures cost far less than sea walls or breakwaters and work on entirely different physical principles. They restore marine ecosystems as well as beaches. The exceptionally rapid growth of corals on them [31,33] provides additional shore protection, and the rapid growth of sand-producing calcareous algae on and around them produces new biological sand supplies. These structures can easily keep pace with global sea level rise because solid hard electrochemical minerals can be grown upwards at rates up to 2 cm/year—around 5 times faster than sea level rise—and grow still much faster when corals, oysters, mussels, and other calcareous organisms cover them. As a result, Biorock shore protection reefs quickly turn eroding beaches into growing ones, can protect entire islands and even grow new ones. Biorock is the most cost-effective technology for protecting eroding coasts, for restoring fisheries habitat, and is critically needed to save the low-lying islands and coasts now threatened by global sea level rise, and the billions of coastal people who will become climate refugees if global warming is not rapidly reversed [4,12].
6. Dedication
This paper is dedicated to the memory of the late Wolf Hilbertz, who first invented the Biorockprocess of growing minerals in the ocean in 1976, and who foresaw all its applications, including shore protection.
Acknowledgments: We thank the entire management and staff of Pulau Gangga Dive Resort and its parent company, Lotus Resorts, for their willingness to try new, better, more natural and effective approaches to shore protection. Lotus Resorts paid for all materials, equipment, domestic travel, and time. The authors thank them deeply for their willingness to pioneer innovative methods of shore protection. We also thank Lori Grace for providing funds for a round trip ticket to Indonesia for Thomas J. F. Goreau to construct the device to measure beach profiles. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions that have improved the original draft.
Author Contributions: T.J.F.G. and P.P. conceived, designed, built, and installed the first four Biorock Anti Wave modules and connected them to power; P.P. then built and installed the rest. T.J.F.G. analyzed the data; contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools; and wrote the paper. Although they are not listed as authors, because they did not work on the projects in the water, the entire management and staff of Lotus Resorts, operators of Pulau Gangga Dive Resort, played absolutely crucial roles in the design, logistics, funding, advice, information, and support for the work described. T.J.F.G. is a co-inventor of the Biorock electric technology of marine ecosystem restoration.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
1.      Pilkey, O.H.; Neal, W.J.; Bush, D.M. Coastal erosion; In Coastal Zones and Estuaries. Encyclopedia of Life
Support Systems (EOLSS); UNESCO: Paris, France, 1992.
2.      Dieng, H.B.; Cazenave, A.; Meyssignac, B.; Ablain, M. New estimate of the current rate of sea level rise
from a sea level budget approach. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2017, doi:10.1002/2017GL073308.
3.      Nieves, V.; Marcos, M.; Willis, J.K. Upper-Ocean Contribution to Short-Term Regional Coastal Sea Level Variability along the United States. J. Clim. 2017, 30, 4037-4045.
4.      Goreau, T.J. Global biogeochemical restoration to stabilize CO2 at safe levels in time to avoid severe climate\change impacts to Earth’s life support systems: Implications for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In Geotherapy: Innovative Technologies for Soil Fertility Restoration,  Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing Atmospheric CO2 Increase; Goreau, T.J., Larson, R.G., Campe, J.A., Eds.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, USA, 2014.
5.      Levitus, S.J.; Antonov, I.; Boyer, T.P.; Baranova, O.K.; Garcia, H.E.; Locarnini, R.A.; Mishonov, A.V.; Reagan, J.R.; Seidov, D.; Yarosh, E.S.; et al. World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea leve change (0-2000 m), 1955-2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2012, 39, L10603, doi:10.1029/2012GL051106.
6.      Gebbie, G.; Huybers, P. The Mean Age of Ocean Waters Inferred from Radiocarbon Observations: Sensitivity to Surface Sources and Accounting for Mixing Histories. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 2012, 42, 291-305.
7.     Goreau, T.J. Balancing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ambio 1990, 19, 230-236.
8.     Goreau, T.J. Tropical ecophysiology, climate change, and the global carbon cycle. In Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystems and Species: Environmental Context; Pernetta, J., Leemans, R., Elder, D., Humphrey, S., Eds.; International Union for the Conservation of Nature: Gland, Switzerland, 1995; pp. 65-79.
9.      Rohling, E.J.; Grant, K.; Bolshaw, M.; Roberts, A.P.; Siddall, M.; Hemleben, C.; Kucera, M. Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles. Nat. Geosci. 2009doi:10.1038/NGEO557.
10.     Koenigswald, W.V. Mammalian faunas from the interglacial periods in Central Europe and their stratigraphic correlation. In The Climate of Past Interglacials; Sirocko, F., Claussen, M., Sanchez Goñi, M.F., Litt, T., Eds.; Elsevier: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2006; pp. 445-454.
11.     Koenigswald, W.V. Discontinuities in the Faunal Assemblages and Early Human Populations of Central and Western Europe During the Middle and Late Pleistocene. In Continuity and Discontinuity in the Peopling of Europe: One Hundred Fifty Years of Neanderthal Study, 101 Vertebrate Paleobiology and PaleoanthropologyCondemi, S., Weniger, G.-C., Eds.; Springer Science + Business Media B.V.: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2011.
12.     Goreau, T.J. The other half of the global carbon dioxide problem. Nature 1987, 328, 581-582.
13.     Munk, W.H.; Traylor, M.A. Refraction of Ocean Waves: A Process Linking Underwater Topography to Beach Erosion. J. Geol. 1947, 55, 1-26.
14.     Wiegel, R.L. Oceanographical Engineering; Dover: New York, NY, USA, 1992.
15.     Schiereck, G.J. Introduction to Bed, Bank, and Shore Protection: Engineering the Interface of Soil and Water; VSSD: Delft, The Netherlands, 2006.
16.      Ferrario, F.; Beck, M.W.; Storlazzi, C.D.; Micheli, F.; Shepard, C.C.; Airoldi, L. The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation. Nat. Commun. 2014, doi:10.1038/ncomms4794.
17.      Goreau, T.F.; Goreau, N.I.; Goreau, T.J. Corals and Coral Reefs. Sci. Am. 1979, 241, 124-136.
18.      Goreau, T.J. Testimony to the National Ocean Policy Study Subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, S. HRG. 101-1138: 30-37; US Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, USA, 1991
19.     Hayes, R.L.; Goreau, T.J. The tropical coral reef ecosystem as a harbinger of global warming. World Resour. Rev. 1991, 3, 306-322.
20.     Goreau, T.J.; Hayes, R.L.; Clark, J.W.; Basta, D.J.; Robertson, C.N. Elevated sea surface temperatures correlate with Caribbean coral reef bleaching. In A Global Warming Forum: Scientific, Economic, and Legal Overview; Geyer, R.A., Ed.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, USA, 1993; pp. 225-255.
21.      Goreau, T.J.; Hayes, R.L. Coral bleaching and ocean “hot spots”. Ambio 1994, 23, 176-180.
22.      Goreau, T.J.; Hayes, R.L. Global coral reef bleaching and sea surface temperature trends from satellite-derived Hotspot analysis. World Resour. Rev. 2005, 17, 254-293.
23.      Goreau, T.J.; Hayes, R.L.; McAllister, D. Regional patterns of sea surface temperature rise: Implications for global ocean circulation change and the future of coral reefs and fisheries. World Resour. Rev. 2005, 17, 350- 374.
24.      Hilbertz, W.H.; Goreau, T.J. Method of Enhancing the Growth of Aquatic Organisms, and Structures Created Thereby. U.S. Patent No. 5,543,034, 6 August 1996.
25.      Goreau, T.J.; Hilbertz, W. Marine ecosystem restoration: Costs and benefits for coral reefs. World Resour. Rev. 2005, 17, 375-409.
26.      Goreau, T.J. Marine electrolysis for building materials and environmental restoration. In ElectrolysisKleperis, J., Linkov, V., Eds.; InTech Publishing: Rijeka, Croatia, 2012; pp. 273-290.
27.      Goreau, T.J. Marine ecosystem electrotherapy: Practice and theory. In Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration; Goreau, T.J., Trench, R.K., Eds.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, USA, 2012.
28.      Wells, L.; Perez, F.; Hibbert, M.; Clervaux, L.; Johnson, J.; Goreau, T. Effect of severe hurricanes on Biorock coral reef restoration projects in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands. Rev. Biol. Trop. 2010, 58, 141-149.
29.      Shyue, S.-W.; Yang, K.-C. Investigating terrain changes around artificial reefs by using a multi-beam  echosounder. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 2002, 59, S338-S342, doi:10.1006/jmsc.2002.1217.
30.     Goreau, T.J.; Hilbertz, W.; Azeez, A.; Hakeem, A.; Sarkisian, T.; Gutzeit, F.; Spenhoff, A. Restoring reefs to grow back beaches and protect coasts from erosion and global sea level rise. In Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration; Goreau, T.J., Trench, R.K., Eds.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, USA, 2012.
31.     Goreau, T.J. Electrical stimulation greatly increases settlement, growth, survival, and stress resistance of marine organisms. Nat. Resour. 2014, 5, 527-537, doi:10.4236/nr.2014.510048.
32.      Andrade, F.; Ferreira, M.A. A Simple Method of Measuring Beach Profiles. J. Coast. Res. 2006, 22, 995-999, doi:10.2112/04-0387.1.
33.      Goreau, T.J.; Cervino, J.; Polina, R. Increased zooxanthellae numbers and mitotic index in electrically stimulated corals. Symbiosis 2004, 37, 107-120.
 © 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 

The role of the community in supporting coral reef restoration in Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

Biorock coral reef restoration in Pemuteran is shown in this paper to have strong support of all sectors of the community because restoration of the economic, environmental, and ecosystem services the reef provides have transformed their way of life from the poorest village in Bali to one of the most prosperous.

Coral reef restoration projects have been conducted worldwide to increase the viability of damaged coral reef ecosystems. Most failed to show significant results. A few have succeeded and gained international recognition for their great benefits to ecosystem services. This study evaluated reef restoration projects in North-west Bali from the perspective of the local community over the past 16 years. As community participation is a critical support system for coral reef restoration projects, the contributing factors which led to high community participation and positive perceptions are examined. Social surveys and statistical analysis were used to understand the correlations between community perception and participation. The findings showed a positive correlation between community perception and participation. The level of community participation also depended on how their work relates to coral reef ecosystems. They supported this project in many ways, from project planning to the religious ceremonies which they believe are fundamental to achieve a successful project. Several Balinese leaders became ‘the bridge’ between global science and local awareness. Without their leadership, this study argues that the project might not have achieved the significant local support that has restored both the environment and the tourism sector in North-West Bali.

Download PDF:
The role of the community in supporting coral reef restoration in Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

New diseases of soft corals

Lesioned and healthy Sarcophyton ehrenbergi
Lesioned and healthy Sarcophyton ehrenbergi. (A) S. ehrenbergi displaying areas of yellow lesioned tissue. (B) Magni- fied image of ulcerated lesion. A healthy S. ehrenbergi is not included here but looks like the coral shown in (A) minus the yellow tissue. (C,D) Examples of a healthy S. ehrenbergi

Ulcerated yellow spot syndrome: implications of aquaculture-related pathogens associated with soft coral Sarcophyton ehrenbergi tissue lesions.

Authors: James M. Cervino, Briana Hauff, Joshua A. Haslun,
Kathryn Winiarski-Cervino, Michael Cavazos, Pamela Lawther,
Andrew M. Wier, Konrad Hughen, Kevin B. Strychar

Download the paper here: NEW SARCO