Biorock reefs grow eroded beaches back naturally and rapidly at Pulau Gangga, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Biorock Electrotherapy saves corals from heat stroke death in Indonesia.
Complete article: St. Barth News, December 22 2016
Vanuatu Biorock Coral Reef Restoration Workshop
Havannah Harbour, Efate, June 9-18 2016
More than 100 people attended the First Vanuatu Biorock Coral Reef Restoration Workshop, held June 13-14, and installed the first Vanuatu Biorock projects at three sites in Havannah Harbour, northwest Efate.
Participants included many fishermen from local villages, especialy Tanoliu (Port Havannah), from other communities on Efate, including Tasi Vanua, the North Efate reef monitoring group, community-based environmental protection groups from Nguna and Pele Islands. The Tasi Vanua group members from Nguna and Pele have been trying for several years to restore the coral reefs on those islands using conventional methods, but have been unsuccessful and have been actively seeking a more successful approach. Students from the University of the South Pacific, Ulei Junior Secondary School, and Tanoliu Primary School, members of the Vanuatu Environment Science Society, and interested members of the local community were all in attendance. They received hands-on training in design, construction, installation, monitoring, maintenance, and repair of effective coral reef fisheries habitat restoration projects.
The workshop was taught by Dr. Tom Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, who has done such projects for nearly 30 years. Dr. Goreau trained the Yayasan Karang Lestari team in Indonesia who won the United Nations Equator Award for Community Based Development and the special UNDP Award for Oceans and Coastal Management at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
The workshop was was organized by Robert Lee, a US Peace Corps Volunteer, Leah Nimoho of the United Nations Development Programme Office in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and Iman Garae, Headmaster of the Tanoliu Primary School.
Following a failed coral garden project, Robert Lee, a teacher in the elementary school at Tanoliu (site of the World War II American military base at Port Havannah), researched coral reef restoration, discovered the Biorock method, and found enormous interest in Vanuatu about learning more effective methods.
Leah Nimoho of the Vanuatu UNDP Small Grants Program and Robert Lee worked for two years to seek funding from UNDP to the Vanuatu Fisheries Department to hold a Biorock Training Workshop. Mr. Iman Garae, Headmaster of the Tanoliu Primary School, brilliantly managed local logistic arrangements, including transportation, food, and community participation.
Special thanks also go to Mr. Graham Nimoho and Mr. William Naviti of the Vanuatu Fisheries Department.
Nothing would have happened without all their hard work, persistence, and strong support from Vanuatu environmental organizations and communities. We are grateful to all who participated.
All photos by Robert Lee or Iman Garae
PAST AND PRESENT CONDITION OF VANAUTU CORAL REEFS
Vanuatu coral reefs are among the best in the world in terms of coral live cover, biodiversity, and large size, comparable to the best Indonesian and Palau reefs before the 1998 bleaching. Yet little work has been done on the condition of the coral reefs, and through a serious scientific/political error they were not included in the Coral Triangle Initiative, which includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
In the past the islands were much more densely populated than they are today, and there must have been impacts of land-clearing for agriculture on the coral reefs of these high, wet islands. Almost the entire population died from genocide caused by European diseases, and the survivors were largely wiped out by the European slave trade “blackbirders” who would round up villages at gunpoint and force them into “indentured” labor in Australian sugar cane fields or Pacific coconut plantations. The islands were occupied by French and British colonists, who forced the population to cut down much of the coastal forest for coconut plantations and the people to work at subsistence wages preparing copra. The impacts of this erosion are clearly seen in muddy silted coastal lagoons with dead coral reefs on the south coast.
In 1943 the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo were suddenly occupied by the US military, who brought in some 150,000 men to build large military bases for bombing, and then invading, the Solomon Islands in order to drive out Japanese troops. In less than one year the islands were transformed and the troops moved on, dumping vast amounts of war material into the sea. Havannah Harbour was the major base on Efate, and most of the fringing reef on the south coast of the harbour was dredged or destroyed for landing crafts and boat traffic. What coral came back was dominated by Porites head corals in shallow water, and Porites branching corals in deeper water. These low biodiversity reefs are typical of those that have been severely stressed by high sedimentation and high temperatures until almost all the other corals have died, leaving Porites as the last survivor. In contrast to these reefs on the south side of Havannah Harbour, those on the north side, as well as those on the open ocean side north of Moso Island, were dominated by Acropora. Porites head and branching corals, which can have very high live coral cover, do not provide the ecological services of biodiversity, fish habitat, and shore protection that the Acropora corals do, producing functionally impaired habitats.
Since most of the steel trash has rusted away, the beaches are distinguished by extraordinary amounts of glass, apparently mostly from millions of Coke bottles drunk by American troops, tossed into the sea, and used for gun target practice. The islands then returned to a coconut plantation economy, which since Independence have been largely replaced by cattle ranches and small farms. There is no industry, and the vast majority of the people are farmers, producing lush tropical crops from the rich soil. The growth of the population over the last 50 years has been very rapid, currently growing by 2.2% per year, causing increased pressure to clear forest land for cultivation, in particular kava, which Vanuatu people are especially fond of.
Following earlier damages by dredging and sedimentation, the growth of the population, and the lack of sewage treatment facilities, have caused weedy algae overgrowth (eutrophication) of reefs near major urban areas, such as Port Vila. In recent years Crown of Thorns outbreaks have killed a lot of coral. New coral diseases, especially White Plague, are starting to have an effect. But in the last year the major cause of coral mortality has become bleaching. Coral bleaching in Vanuatu was predicted in April based on the Satellite Sea Surface Temperature HotSpot data by Tom Goreau. June dives confirmed that Vanuatu was recovering from a major bleaching event. The excess temperature was only around 1 degree C for a month, enough to trigger mass bleaching but not severe coral mortality. Recent coral death at the reefs dived on ranged from low to moderate, with perhaps 20-30% mortality at the most affected sites, much of it partial mortality (usually the tops of the colonies), with lower mortality at sites with high turbidity due to protection from high light stress during high temperature bleaching. At these sites bleaching seemed to be the major cause of coral mortality but most of the corals were gradually regaining their normal colors (see photo below). Since bleaching is the result of global warming, such events will be more frequent in the future.
Vanuatu coastal villagers are all excellent swimmers, are exceptionally aware of the recent decline in their coral reefs, and are unusually worried about these trends. As a result many villages have started their own coral nursery projects, copying the standard methods used around the world, with precisely the same results: almost all the corals died. The international funding agencies that promote such projects never show long-term results for a very good reason! But they never report their failures, because that would prevent getting more money to repeat them! But unlike most, Vanuatu people quickly realized that they needed more advanced methods of reef restoration that increase coral settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to environmental stresses like high temperature, sediments, and nutrients, which only the Biorock method does.
A Hawksbill turtle swims over coral reefs on the north shore of Havannah Harbour. Almost all the coral colonies in this photo are slowly recovering their color from bleaching. Photo June 12 2016 by Robert Lee.
A two day-long hands-on training workshop was held at the Havannah Beach and Boat Club, thanks to the permission of the owner, Jonathan Delaney.
Videos were shown of the results of Biorock coral reef restoration projects in Bali, which were awarded the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development, and the special UNDP Award for Oceans and Coastal Management, at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
A lecture discussed the principles of project design for different purposes, focusing on coral reef fish habitat restoration. The group then built the first two structures, tunnels made from welded steel mat and rebars. Then the group built a large dome.
On the second day the group wired and installed the two tunnels in water about 2 meters deep at low tide on the inside edge of the reef in front of the Havannah Beach and Boat Club, installed the electrode and power source, and turned it on. The event was documented by drone filming done by Marke Lowen of the Vanuatu Museum Film Archive, to be broadcast by the Vanuatu Museum free cable TV channel. Then the group carried the dome to the Havannah Eco Lodge (Gideon’s Landing) and installed it in water about 5 meters deep, wired up the structure and electrode, and laid the cable. The power supply was not available until the following morning, when it was turned on.
The group from Tanoliu, eager to practice and improve their skills, then immediately built another dome, about 2 m high and 4 m wide, which was installed and wired up the following day. Like all the other projects, they worked immediately when connected.
Biorock dome at the shore of Tanoliu being prepared for installation in the water.
Celebrating the installation of the dome at Tanoliu, on the bottom near the float.
The Tanoliu group spent a half day being instructed in coral transplantation, focusing first on adding corals to the tunnel structures from local naturally broken coral fragments found on the reef.
Several post workshop follow-through training sessions on coral transplantation were given at Tanoliu with the local team, including Robert Lee, who trained members of Tasi Vanua, a North Efate coral reef monitoring organization, in the methods, and built and installed more structures.
Lectures were also given at the University of the South Pacific on the Future of Coral Reefs, and at the Vanuatu Environment Science Society on the Past, Present, and Future of Vanuatu Coral Reefs. A local newspaper, The Independent, ran a special two page article on the workshop.
Restoring their villages coral reefs: A day these Tanoliu students will never forget! They’ll come back again and again to see the corals and fish!
The Training Workshop was Phase I of the project. Once all the expense accounting has been submitted, funding for Phase II will be released by UNDP.
Phase II will be scheduled as soon as possible after the funds are approved to continue the momentum and to build on the enormous enthusiasm which the first workshop generated. The major goals include:
1) Documenting the results of all the pilot projects installed at the first three sites, and assessing them to decide how they could be best improved and expanded.
2) Establishing a local cooperative for sustainable mariculture projects at Tanoliu focusing on culture of giant clams and habitat for groupers.
3) Expanding the projects to new sites around Efate and other islands. Already at least half a dozen groups want similar projects.
4) Making Vanuatu the Pacific leader in coral reef restoration, sustainable marine resource management, and adaptation to climate change.
5) Expanding the UNDP Small Grants Programme to support more community-based marine habitat restoration and management projects in Vanuatu, and in other coral reef subsistence fishing communities around the world.
The technique is also changing attitudes and inspiring locals to preserve their natural treasures
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.
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.
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.”
Yayasan 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.’”
Locals 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
Biorock reefs — sunken steel frames connected to a low-voltage current — are giving coral a second chance at surviving humanity.
May 27, 2016, 3:12 p.m. MICHAEL D’ESTRIES
Biorock reefs may offer a speedy solution to giving young coral reefs some much-needed protection against climate change. (Photo: Global Coral Reefs Alliance/Eunjae Im)
You may have heard that coral reefs are in trouble. Serious trouble. A recent survey of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on the planet, found 93 percent of the coral has been impacted by bleaching; a stark warning sign that the ecosystem is under tremendous environmental stresses.
The potential underwater losses are so great, encompassing an area of the size of Scotland, that one leading coral researcher is already calling it the country’s “biggest ever environmental disaster.”
With the clock ticking, the race is on to find innovative ways to counter the mass deaths of coral reefs worldwide. The most obvious solution is to stop dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to avoid a future of hotter, more acidic oceans. Scientists are also targeting so-called “super corals” in an effort to mass produce species more resistant to climate change. The third involves rebuilding coral reefs using steel frames and, most surprising, a steady current of electricity.
Called “Biorocks,” these steel-framed structures can sometimes appear to be more akin to an underwater art project than a coral incubator. The steel can take on any shape, but the most important piece of the puzzle is the low-voltage electricity coursing through the frame. The idea, patented in 1979, is the brainchild of marine scientist Wolf Hilbertz and marine biologist Thomas J. Goreau. Together, the pair discovered that an electric current passed through sea water creates a chemical reaction that results in a coating of limestone minerals similar in composition to the natural ones created by young coral.
“These currents are safe to humans and all marine organisms,” explains the Gili Eco Trust, a non-profit that has setup over 100 Biorock structures around islands in Indonesia. “There is no limit in principle to the size or shape of Biorock structures, they could be grown hundreds of miles long if funding allowed. The limestone is the best substrate for hard coral.”
The video below shows how a Biorock structure is made and installed on a coral reef.
Once a Biorock structure is submerged, organizers transplant broken fragments of live coral (often ripped from reefs by strong waves, anchors or other forces) and attach them to the frame. Electricity is provided by either an underwater cable from shore or from floating solar panels. Reef-building groups are also starting to experiment with wave-generation to power the frames. Once turned on, it only takes a matter of days before the structure is covered in a thin layer of limestone. Within months, the coral has taken hold and begins to flourish.
“No one believes what we do is possible until they see it themselves,” co-inventor Thomas Goreau told Gaia Discovery. “Growing bright coral reefs swarming with fish in a few years in places that were barren deserts is something everybody thinks can’t be done, but has been done in nearly 30 countries with only small donations, mostly from local people who remember how their reef used to be and realize they must grow more corals now.”
In the video below, one such local in Bali takes us on a dive and explains how he nurtures coral growth around a Biorock.
According to the Global Coral Reef Alliance, a non-profit of which Goreau is the president, Biorock reefs not only help speed the growth of coral, but also make them more resistant to stress-inducing temperature and acidity increases.
So why hasn’t more of the marine science community shifted to rebuilding coral reefs using the Biorock method? The first reason has to do with feasibility, since it’s not always easy to run a low-voltage cable from shore to the reef. Thanks to the rise of solar and tidal energy solutions, this obstacle has become less of a problem. The second, according to one marine scientist, has to do with an absence of published studies showing the process is actually worth pursuing.
“It certainly does appear to work,” Tom Moore, a coral restoration coordinator at the the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, told Smithsonian Magazine. He added that the scientific community has been slow to embrace over the lack of independent validation. That said, and with coral reefs around the world facing worse odds as the years tick by, Moore says he’ll like give the process a try.
“We’re actively looking for new techniques,” he added. “I want to keep a very much open mind.”
Original article: Mother Nature Network
Giving Coral Reefs a new chance
“We live underwater” success in 2015 and plans for 2016
In 2015, we released our short film about coral reef restoration in Indonesia. The film documents planning, building and sinking the reef and explains the amazing Biorock® technology, where low voltage electricity is used to enhance coral growth and health. In case you haven’t seen our film, you can watch it here:
We were back at the reef in December last year – check out how amazing it looks after only 12 months:
Our film has been screened on various film festivals, including the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York, which we were able to attend to spread the idea of coral reef restoration.
Furthermore, “We live underwater” has been awarded:
Best Theme at the Kolkotta International Wildlife & Environment Film Festival
Best Direction at Silently Short Underwater Movie Festival Belgrade
We are so honoured!
Screenings / presentations in 2016
The new year holds some more festival screenings for us, and hopefully some more awards! If you live nearby, you can watch our film on a big screen at these festivals:
We will also hold a presentation about the Biorock® technology at the
Frankfurt Zoologische Gesellschaft:
March, 2, 2016: Kleiner Saal, Zoogesellschaftshaus (6 p.m.)
We still need to help coral reefs in 2016
It is most important to us to get the word out about coral reefs in peril, and that there is a way to help them! The news are full with reports about this year’s incredibly strong El Niño weather effect, the rising sea temperatures and the mass coral bleaching it is already causing on reefs worldwide. The Biorock® technology poses fabulous possibilities to help damaged reefs quickly and to restore whole coral areas. We need to save coral reefs to keep the oceans and the planet healthy.
Having seen the amazing success of Biorocks® with our own eyes, our plans for 2016 are to realize more coral restoration projects and workshops to help stressed or damaged coral reef ecosystems.
Our local dive shop Tawo Diving in Oberursel, Germany hosted a Christmas party in November 2015 and already collected the amazing amount of 900 € for us to build more Biorocks® artificial reefs in Indonesia. Thank you so much!
If you as well want to participate in this great cause, you can from now on also donate money for our upcoming Biorock® projects directly through our website (using a Paypal donation button) or simply get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org!
To donate for future Biorock® artificial reefs, go to:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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