An historical overview of impacts from land-based pollution on
community based natural resource management (CBNRM) as it applies to marine fisheries & coral reefs in the tropics.
Paul Andre DeGeorges1,2*
1Tshwane University of Technology, Nature Conservation, Pretoria, South Africa 2Mayflower Drive, Greenbackville, Virginia 23356, USA
The purpose of this review is to provide an historic record of the author’s experience from the 1960s through the 1990s with coral reefs and the impacts of land-based pollution and other actions by man on this important ecosystem, from the islands of the Caribbean and Central America to the West/East Coasts of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean. This is tied into the concept of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), its origins in Southern Africa tied to Africa’s mega-fauna and how it can apply to fisher communities in the tropics. It concludes that unless human population pressures and the current forms of “development and conservation” both linked to pollution and habitat degradation are addressed, the future for both man and these unique ecosystems are in jeopardy. A key to this solution is how the Developed World relates to the Developing World. It is hoped that this review will provide insight to future generations of ecologists, researchers, resource managers, politicians, donors and NGOs (non- governmental organizations) as to the issues they will confront if both mankind and nature are to have a viable future, living in harmony. Currently, they appear to be in conflict with each other and only man can resolve these issues based upon how he interacts with Mother Nature.
Increasing stress from global warming, sea level rise, acidification, sedimentation, pollution, and unsustainable practices have degraded the most critical coastal ecosystems including coral reefs, oyster reefs, and salt marshes. Conventional restoration methods work only under perfect conditions but fail nearly completely when the water becomes too hot or water quality deteriorates. New methods are needed to greatly increase settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to environmental stress of keystone marine organisms in order to maintain critical coastal ecosystem functions including shore protection, fisheries, and biodiversity. Electrolysis methods have been applied to marine ecosystem restoration since 1976, with spectacular results (Figures 1(a)-(c)). This paper provides the first overall review of the data. Low-voltage direct current trickle charges are found to increase the settlement of corals 25.86 times higher than uncharged control sites, to increase the mean growth rates of reef-building corals, soft corals, oysters, and salt marsh grass— an average of 3.17 times faster than controls (ranging from 2 to 10 times depending on species and conditions), and to increase the survival of electrically charged marine organisms—an average of 3.47 times greater than controls, with the biggest increases under the most severe environmental stresses. These results are caused by the fundamental biophysical stimulation of natural biochemical energy production pathways, used by all organisms, provided by electrical stimulation under the right conditions. This paper reviews for the first time all published results from properly designed, installed, and maintained projects, and contrasts them with those that do not meet these criteria.
How to cite this paper: Goreau, T.J. (2014) Electrical Stimulation Greatly Increases Settlement, Growth, Survival, and Stress Resistance of Marine Organisms. Natural Resources, 5, 527-537. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/nr.2014.510048
Low-voltage direct current trickle charges using Biorock electrolytic technology   grow limestone structures
of any size or shape in the sea and produce the only self-repairing marine construction material that gets
stronger with age , and grows breakwaters capable of rapidly growing back severely eroded beaches . But
in addition to physical benefits the process also has profound stimulatory effects on all forms of marine life.
Biorock structures have been repeatedly shown to greatly increase the settlement, healing, growth, survival, and
resistance to stresses such as extreme high temperatures, sedimentation, and eutrophication in stony corals -, soft corals , oysters -, sea grasses , and intertidal salt marsh grasses . Many other organisms, including clams, tunicates, sponges, and fishes have also been observed to greatly increase their populations in electrical fields, but few measurements have been made on them to date. This review summarizes the available data on the effects of low-voltage direct current electrical stimulation on growth rates, survival, stress resistance, and physiology, which suggest the mechanism is a completely general one that benefits all organisms . Results from projects that were properly designed, installed, and maintained are included in the main part of this paper. Because understanding the causes of negative results play an important role in the scientific method, projects that do not meet those criteria of proper design, installation, and maintenance are discussed separately.
2. The Impact of Electrical Stimulation on Marine Organisms
2.1. Published Results from Properly Designed, Installed, and Maintained Projects
The very first Biorock project, built at Grand Isle, Louisiana in 1976, was completely covered by multiple layers of spontaneously settling oysters that grew to adult size in about 3 months . Recent Biorock projects in New York City show dense spontaneous settlement of oysters on rocks near Biorock structures. Nevertheless, no controlled studies of oyster settlement have yet been conducted. By the late 1980s it was found that electrically stimulated corals grew 3 – 5 times record rates for their species, even under conditions of severe stress. Since then hundreds of projects have been built all across the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia, with most projects being in Indonesia, the global center of marine biodiversity. While slowly growing Biorock structures have been densely covered with hundreds of spontaneously recruiting corals  , only two studies have documented coral settlement on them  . When these are compared to spontaneous recruitment of corals in natural habitats in the same units (recruits per square meter per month) the rates of settlement on electrically charged Biorock are found to be 1 to 4 orders of magnitude greater (Figure 2(a)), with a mean of 25.86 times higher than those reported from field settling experiments.
Growth rates of reef building hard corals -, gorgonian soft coral , oysters -, and salt marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora)  have been quantitatively compared on Biorock with identical clones off Biorock
in the same habitat. The results show that the electrically stimulated organisms grow typically 2 to 10 times faster (Figure 2(b)), with a mean of 3.17 times greater than controls. In addition hard and soft corals that have
been collected naturally broken and badly damaged are observed to heal completely, release little or no mucus, and regain bright color and polyp extension within a day, while controls remain pale and continue to look injured
and release mucus for two weeks . Corals in electrical fields are observed to bud and branch more densely  . This is reminiscent of the well known role of DC electrical fields in healing ruptured cellular membranes and cuts in the skin of organisms: if the polarity is correct the cut rapidly heals and closes, while if it is reversed the cut opens up . Survival of hard corals -, soft corals , oysters -, and salt marsh grass  in electrical fields compared to un-electrified controls also show many times higher survival (Figure 2(c)), with a mean of 3.47 times higher than controls. This is especially the case in extreme stress conditions from excessively high temperatures, sedimentation, or eutrophication, when almost all the controls die, but most of the electrically charged organisms survive. For example in the severe 1998 Maldives bleaching event Biorock reefs had 16 to 50 times higher coral survival than surrounding reefs, and every single control coral transplanted onto cement structures died . In the 2010 Thailand bleaching events corals bleached less (in some cases not at all), recovered faster, and had much higher survival than the same species of corals on surrounding reefs . Similar results have been seen with oysters , salt marsh grass , and seagrass . Control oysters in New York City nearly all died over a severe winter, and the shells of the survivors shrank in size because they were etched and dissolved from acidity caused by increased CO2 solubility in cold water. In contrast Biorock oysters continued to
grow throughout the normally dormant period, and their shells were shiny with no signs of dissolution from acidity . This is in part because the Biorock electrolytic process generates net alkalinity, and so counteracts acidification . A comparison of 6 genera of corals grown on Biorock with genetically identical clones in the same habitat  showed that electrically stimulated corals had higher densities of the symbiotic alga Symbiodinium sp. (Figure 3(a)), even higher Symbiodinium cell division rates as measured by mitotic indices (Figure 3(b)), but had generally lower chlorophyll per Symbiodinium cell (Figure 3(c)). This is analogous to the lowered chlorophyll content of corals exposed to high light, which is interpreted as a mechanism to prevent excessive photosynthetic production and symbiotic alga growth -. The greatly increased growth rate of corals with electrical stimulation appears to occur despite less dependence on the symbiotic algae, and therefore is a direct effect of the electrical field itself.
All of these phenomena indicate that electrical fields in the right range greatly stimulate the health of marine organisms. These effects are not residual, they occur only when the electrical field is on (Figure 4(a)). These results are no surprise, since all forms of life from bacteria on up maintain a roughly tenth of a volt potential difference between the outside of the cell and the inside, and use electron and proton flow along this voltage gradient to make ATP and NADP, the fundamental energy and reducing currencies of all life. ATP production and protein synthesis are both directly stimulated by DC electrical currents over a very broad range spanning orders of magnitude , increasing with current to a maximum and then decreasing at excessive levels (Figure 4(b)). 2.2. Results from Improperly Designed Experiments This section discusses published results from projects that do not meet the criteria of proper training, materials, design, installation, and maintenance according to the inventors of the electrical stimulation method. All have failed to get the results achieved by those with proper training and materials, for several different reasons. As
there are several different causes for their failure to achieve prime results, these inappropriate projects are reviewed below by major categories of the flaws in their design or execution.
2.2.1. Mistake -1: Current Reversed
In these projects the power leads are connected backwards. Instead of the cathode being protected from corrosion, it rusts very rapidly instead, and the anode, instead of being clean, is instead heavily overgrown by rapid growth of soft minerals. Sometimes it takes months before they realize their mistake, and often the error was only recognized much too late when the author visited and pointed it out. These mistakes can easily be prevented by promptly sending photos for advice. In some cases reports based on this mistake have been published claiming that the method is a total failure. A report by the Texas A&M University Galveston Coastal Geology Laboratory was paid for the State of Texas General Lands Office (GLO), in order to see if electrical methods could protect steel with mineral coatings, as had been shown by Hilbertz in the 1970s. Texas A&M found instead that the charged structures rusted even faster than the controls! They never realized their mistake, nor apparently did Texas GLO.
2.2.2. Mistake 0: No Current
This can result from power supply failure or from cable breakage.
In some of these cases the project was properly designed and installed, but those running the project failed to realize that it was not under power and send photos to the author for confirmation and advice on how to fix it. Some of these continued making measurements for up to year not realizing that the project was not under power, and the mistake was only realized afterwards when they finally sent the first photographs to the author, who immediately recognized they were not receiving electrical current. That is why even trained groups are advised to send frequent photos for advice.
Other cases were by untrained imitators using incorrect design and materials. These failures were largely caused by power supplies burning out, electrical cables breaking, or bad contacts. Most such failures were caused by extreme storm events, such as hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones, and were not properly diagnosed or repaired. In other cases they resulted from deliberate destruction by people running boats over the cables, breaking cables by dragging anchors over cables, by people dumping anchors on top of projects accidentally or deliberately, or saboteurs who cut cables for bizarre reasons of their own, usually involving a personal grudge against a local partner rather than the project itself. Unfortunately several projects that received no current resulted in published theses and papers.
One example is a thesis project by Zaidy Khan at the University of the South Pacific, which found no difference in growth rates of corals on structures which were thought to be under power but which in fact were not, and control structures known to receive no power.
The same error occurred in a thesis project by Andrew Taylor of James Cook University, supervised by Bette Willis, who sought to compare coral growth on structures with and without power. Taylor did not build any electrified structures, he simply used one of our field sites without permission, which his thesis advisor did not seem to realize was fundamentally unethical. The structure he thought was under power was in fact not, due to a burned out power supply that had not been repaired or replaced. In addition Taylor’s control corals died from disease, but a poster was presented anyway at the International Coral Reef Symposium claiming that Biorock corals did not grow faster than controls.
Another experiment done by Bogor University at Pramuka Island in the Seribu Islands north of Jakarta was victim of deliberate turning off of the power. The local power supply was in a commercial restaurant that was paid for supplying power, but which in fact turned the power off except during short visits by students making measurements. The interpretation of several Master’s theses was compromised by failure to realize what had happened until later.
In several cases groups in places like Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, Japan, the United States, and other places, who falsely claim to be trained in Biorock methods have been making unauthorized projects that have been complete failures. Their pitiful results are an obvious failure to all visitors, and an embarrassment because the imitators then say the method doesn’t work, not that they aren’t trained to do it properly.
2.2.3. Mistake 1: Current Too Low
This mistake results from powering too large an area with too small a power source, or failure to recognize that cables are broken or inadequate. One example comes from Terlouw , who reports measurements made on a project in Ko Tao, Thailand that was partially installed, but whose installation was never completed to standards. As a result of inadequate and broken cables the project received only a little power in the first year. In the second year new cables were installed and a failed power supply replaced so the project received power, but in the third year the cables broke and or the power supply failed, so only a small trickle or no power reached the project. These conditions were identified by the author from photographs sent from the project, but were not recognized by Terlouw, who reported that corals on Biorock grew faster than control corals by a factor of 1.54 in Year One, by a factor of 5.04 in Year Two, and by a factor of 1.33 in Year Three. Terlouw, not recognizing the cause of the variations, suggested that benefits are mixed, but our interpretation is that the higher results in Year 2 are due to that being the only year with adequate power, while Year 1 and Year 3 were underpowered, resulting in lower rates.
A similar mistake was made with oysters by Piazza et al. . In this particular case the oysters thought to be getting electrical current were in fact getting almost none at all, because flawed experimental design concentrated the current onto fresh pieces of bare steel. Piazza et al. found that the oysters that they incorrectly thought to be under power grew only 1.15 times faster than controls.
2.2.4. Mistake 2: Current Too High
Over-charging has been known to cause negative effects from the very start, but most groups that set up experiments without proper training or materials use high power to get quick results. As shown in Figure 4(b) of this paper, excessive current causes negligible benefits, and if too high, causes negative effects, killing corals. Unfortunately most of those who get negative results due to overcharging do not realize their error, and many of them have published their results anyway. This mistake is the cause of the very poor results reported by Schuhmacher, Schillak, Van Treeck, Sabater, Yap, Eggeling, and their colleagues -. Since these authors did not realize their mistakes and published negative or minor results, it has been widely claimed that the method does not work, but in fact their poor results were entirely due to lack of proper training, experimental design, materials, etc. Such mistakes are even worse when done in a closed system tank. As a result of their overcharging the corals had only very small increases in growth rates, or they bleached and failed to grow entirely, or died.
2.2.5. Mistake 3: Ethical
Borrell et al.   reported that one coral species grows a bit faster with electricity but that another species had its growth reduced and inhibited by the electrical field  . In fact, the alleged reduction of one species’ growth was for a completely different reason: terminal phase male parrotfish established their breeding territories on the Biorock project, and marked them by biting off all the growing tips of that one species only, while ignoring them in the control site. The author of this paper personally set that project up, and documented the cause, but this was completely and knowingly ignored by the authors of the report, causing deceptive and false conclusions.
These results all point in the same direction: low-voltage trickle charges can greatly enhance the health of marine organisms. Voltage gradients in the right range appear to create the ideal biophysical conditions for the creation of biochemical energy, stimulating healing, growth, survival, and resistance to stress. The external field maintains the cell membrane gradient and greatly reduces the need for cells to spend a large part of their energy pumping electrons, protons, and ions to maintain the gradient, freeing this energy for metabolism, growth, and resisting environmental stress.
Unfortunately many people copying the Biorock method think they can do so without training. The results of improperly designed, installed, and maintained projects set up by people without training using improper materials always fail to replicate the results of projects by trained people using approved methods and materials, for several obvious reasons. These people inevitably blame the technology itself and not their lack of training. Almost every data point in these graphs represents populations of different species grown in the field under different electrical conditions, most of which are likely to be suboptimal. For example oyster growth rates next to a former toxic waste dump in New York City increased with current, up to 10 fold (NB, length increase only, the volume increase is a thousand fold), even though they were getting power less than a quarter of the time, and probably would have grown even faster with more power . Much more work is needed to find out the optimal conditions, which are likely to be subtly different for each species. It has not escaped our attention that because membrane electro-chemical gradient-driven energy production is universal among all cellular life, going back to the last common ancestor, the method will apply to all organisms, although the effects and best conditions will depend on the electrical conductivity of their medium.
Maintaining ecosystem services in the face of accelerating global climate change will require methods that increase growth, survival, and resistance to escalating stress. These results indicate that the Biorock process is unique in accelerating settlement, growth, healing, branching, survival, and resistance to environmental stress. This allows marine organisms to be kept alive under conditions that would otherwise kill them, and enables entire complex ecosystems to be restored in a short period of time in places where there is no natural recovery (Figure 1). The Biorock electrolysis method, by stimulating the natural energy production mechanism, is the only ecological restoration method known that can maintain and restore marine ecosystems under conditions of accelerating global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, sedimentation, and excessive nutrient inputs, especially under severe stress where all other methods fail. It is urgent that the method should be optimized and applied on a large scale as soon as possible, especially in coral reefs, the ecosystem most threatened by global warming  , and in extending oyster reefs and salt marshes seaward to reduce coastal damage caused by global sea level rise.
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Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
Corals continued dying around the world in 2017 from global warming, pollution, and disease, and GCRA continued to show policymakers and the public the severity of the damage and to pioneer regenerative solutions. GCRA will accelerate its efforts in 2018.
GCRA’s Indonesia coral reef restoration projects continued to lead the world in 2017. Our Balinese partner, Yayasan Karang Lestari, recipient of the 2012 United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development, was selected for special honors at the 2017 World Ocean Day Event at the UN Oceans Conference for turning their village from the poorest in Bali to one of the most prosperous by restoring their coral reef. Last year, corals on Biorock reefs in Indonesia survived when severe bleaching killed almost all the corals around them, and Biorock reefs grew back a severely eroded Sulawesi beach in just a few months by growing corals and seagrasses in front of Pulau Gangga Dive Resort. Biorock Indonesia teams continued to manage around 300 Biorock reefs, start many new ones, and train new teams to start projects all across Indonesia. See 2017 Biorock Indonesia training workshop clips below:
Biorock coral restoration projects were maintained at several locations in the Panama Caribbean. One of the finest coral reefs left in the Caribbean, with exceptionally large ancient corals, was studied in the Guna Comarca (Indigenous Territories). Another reef with high live coral cover was found right in front of the Panama Canal breakwaters, and efforts are underway with local environmental groups to save this reef from being killed soon by dredging for a container port.
The first new Biorock reef restoration projects in Jamaica in 25 years were started near the last ones. A coral nursery growing elkhorn coral was established. This coral used to form huge forests at this site, but all vanished decades ago. The project is very small because of the tiny amount of coral now available to propagate, but will expand quickly as it grows rapidly. The best reef left in Jamaica was filmed, and efforts re-started with the local community to get it protected and managed locally.
New coral reef restoration projects were developed for early 2018 with local partners in Grenada, Mexico, Indonesia, Panama, Bahamas, and Vanuatu. These will incorporate new advances in Biorock Technology, and feature use of CCell wave energy devices to protect eroding shores and grow beaches back. See announcement.
GCRA researchers published a paper in the Journal of Animal Behavior showing electrical fields around Biorock structures inhibit sharks from biting but have no effect on other fishes. Available here. The tiny electrical field confuses sharks so they don’t bite. Biorock coral reef restoration projects can help protect people and sharks from harming each other.
Biorock oyster and saltmarsh restoration projects in cold waters continued at our toxic waste sites in New York City, and a short experiment was done to test applicability in San Francisco Bay.
Research projects were started with the University of Aalborg in Denmark, and the University of the Basque Country in Spain focusing on the chemistry, physics, and engineering properties of the materials produced by the Biorock process.
Tom Goreau spoke on large-scale community-managed marine ecosystem restoration at the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York, and at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn. His paper on the factors controlling the rate of CO2 drawdown to reverse climate change was published in the Proceedings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Conference on Soil Organic Carbon in Rome. He also participated in international conferences on agricultural regeneration in Mexico, on regenerative development to reverse climate change in London, and on re-greening of the Sinai Desert in the Netherlands.
GCRA filmed an interview by Tom Goreau with Professor Robert Kent Trench, the world’s top expert on coral symbiosis, looking at the oldest coral reef photographs from Belize and discussing the changes. Tom Goreau featured in two full-length documentary films that are now in final production stages for release in 2018. One film directed by Marcy Cravat will be on soil carbon and reversing climate change, the other by Andrew Nisker will be on environmental impacts of golf course chemicals. A new documentary was funded to start filming in 2018 on the historic GCRA Coral Reef Photograph Collection, the world’s largest from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and the long-term changes they document.
GCRA researchers looked at a major collection of nearly a thousand corals from the Great Barrier Reef, made 50 years ago in 1967, but packed away in a museum without ever being identified or studied, and is assisting getting the corals documented and identified, along with the major taxonomic collections of Caribbean corals.
GCRA proudly announces the GCRA Coral Classics Series, with the first volume to be posted in early 2018 being A STUDY OF THE BIOLOGY AND HISTOCHEMISTRY OF CORALS, the foundational work of coral biology and coral reef ecology. This masterpiece by Thomas F. Goreau, the world’s first diving marine scientist and founder of modern coral reef science, was his 1956 Yale University Ph.D. thesis. Although it is the essential starting point for all serious students of corals and coral reefs, it has long been unavailable. The GCRA publication includes all the original figures and photographic plates from the classic study of coral anatomy, ecology, and physiology available, newly re-edited individually for clarity.
1 Global Coral Reef Alliance, 37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
2 Biorock Indonesia, Bali 80361, Indonesia
3 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.
Accelerating global sea level rise is now causing almost all beaches worldwide to erode . The current rate of sea level rise, now 3 mm/year , will accelerate greatly in the future as the melting of ice caps increases, masked by shorter term regional fluctuations driven by local weather . 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 .
Since the ocean holds nearly 93% of the heat in the Earth ocean-atmosphere-soil-vegetation-rock-ice system  and it takes around 1500 years for the ocean to mix and turn over , 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 .
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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . When grown slowly, less than 1-2 cm/year, this material is several times harder than Portland Cement concrete .
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 .
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 . 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 . 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 .
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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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
Figure 2. Erosion of the beach prior to the project. Google Earth images from 2013 (a) and 2014 (b) showing 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.
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).
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 (c–e).
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, (b) wave starting to interact with mesh, (c) wave energy dissipated by friction.
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 .
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 . 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.
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].
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.
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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.
CORAL ARKS, CLIMATE STRATEGY: SAVING CORAL REEFS IN THE SHORT AND LONG TERM
May 7 2017. The Global Coral Reef Alliance / Soil Carbon Alliance urgently seeks funding during 2017 to support leadership in Geotherapy: global ecosystem regenerative development to reverse climate change, and for the Biorock Electric Reef Coral Ark Program with Indigenous Peoples (below).
CORAL REEF ARKS
Coral reefs are the most sensitive ecosystem to global warming and will be the first to become functionally extinct due to excess atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, imminently threatening the major marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline resources of over 100 countries. The threat was fully understood by 1990, but was deliberately ignored for nearly 30 years by governments unwilling to solve the global climate change problem. As the result the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a death sentence for coral reefs. Restoration of lost reefs is a life and death matter for the Small Island Developing States, and especially the atoll nations.
Massive coral mortality from heat shock took place across the globe in 2015 and 2016, record hot years, at precisely the temperatures forecast nearly 30 years ago by the Goreau-Hayes satellite sea surface temperature HotSpot method. 2017 will probably be even hotter, and many of the few Great Barrier Reef corals that survived the severe 2016 bleaching have bleached and died unusually early in 2017. Many new more regions will bleach this year as the equatorial and northern regions warm up. Since hotter years will certainly follow, we now have only a few years left to protect the last of the most critically threatened natural resource of the ocean.
Even if all fossil fuel use stops today, we will still face millions of years of high temperature, sea level, and CO2, continuing long after IPCC’s model projection time horizons of 50 or 100 years, condemning future generations to extinction of coral reefs and flooding of low lying coasts where billions of people live, unless CO2 is urgently reduced to preindustrial levels.
Biorock Coral Arks are the only way known to save corals from high temperature stress during the interim period until regenerative development strategies can reverse CO2 increase. During 2016 almost all the corals on Biorock Coral Arks in Indonesia survived the bleaching mortality of more than 95% of corals on nearby reefs, and they grew back a severely eroded beach naturally in just months. Indonesian fishing villages with Biorock reef projects have not only restored their fisheries, they have been transformed from the poorest villages on their island to some of the most prosperous, because so many tourists come from all over the world to swim over their spectacular Biorock corals and fish.
An immediate crash program is needed NOW to restore our damaged reefs using methods that 1) greatly increase coral growth rates, and 2) greatly increase coral survival from high temperature stress, and 3) work directly with coral reef communities. Biorock technology is the only method that does so, and can be powered on any scale by developing our vast but untapped clean and sustainable wave, wind, solar, and ocean current energy. Biorock methods greatly increase coral settlement, increase coral growth rates 2-6 times, prevent coral death after bleaching from heat shock, speed up coral recovery, and result in much higher survival, up to 50 times higher (5,000%) in the worst cases. All marine organisms and ecosystems, not only corals, benefit from Biorock electric fields because they directly stimulate natural biochemical energy production. Biorock reefs greatly increase fish populations, create new sustainable mariculture opportunities, and build growing, self-repairing reefs of any size or shape that turn severely eroding low island beaches into growing ones naturally in just months, allowing them to grow despite global sea level rise. All other methods of coral reef restoration and shore protection will eventually fail catastrophically under global warming and global sea level rise.
In order to prevent catastrophic loss of fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity in the coming years a massive program of coral reef restoration is needed in all the coral reef countries, and especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Biorock Coral Arks are our last hope to maintain coral reef ecosystem services until global warming is reversed. There is no time to waste: failure means condemning around a billion people to become climate refugees.This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to
This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to long-term restoration of their immediate environment can do so. Only local people are seriously dedicated to restoring their own fisheries, shorelines, and natural resources over the generations that will be needed until global warming can be brought under control. To be truly effective, all funding should be put directly into community- based environmental management initiatives supporting local efforts to restore and manage the resources they have lost, not to foreign or even national institutions, who will waste the money on bureaucracies, foreign consultants, and big international NGOs (BINGOs).
They should specifically NOT be under the control of those programs funded and controlled by the rich countries, which have spent 40 years systematically denying the massive declines of reefs that were already long known in the SIDS, denying their clearly proven linkages to global warming, and actively preventing any effective action to restore coral reefs with fiction about “resilience”. These groups are now attempting to control all reef funding, and if they succeed they will waste all the money by repeating their past failures.
GCRA Community-managed Coral Ark projects will be designed and built working directly with indigenous fishing communities who have already shown they want to act to restore their marine resources, and whose trust we have won through years, decades, or generations working with them on their coral reefs. These sites will be used to train other community-based environmental management groups who want to restore their coral reefs, fisheries, and beaches in their regions. Our first priorities are:
Jamaica is where coral reef diving research first began and where the decline of coral reefs, and all their causes, were first documented and understood. Jamaica is also where Biorock electric coral reef restoration was invented by GCRA researchers Wolf Hilbertz and TG 30 years ago, but unfortunately there have been no Biorock projects in Jamaica for 25 years. We have worked closely with Jamaican fishermen documenting changes on the reefs for 65 year., TG, a native speaker of Jamaican patois, wrote the integrated whole watershed and coastal zone management plans for both ends of Jamaica. We will focus on coral reef and fisheries restoration in Westmoreland, where the fishermen still remember the amazing coral growth and fish and lobster populations attracted to solar powered Biorock reefs we built with them 25 years ago. The former reef is now a barren wasteland, and the locals want to restore their collapsed reefs and fisheries.
The Guna Indians of Panama are lobster divers who live on 50 low islands, a quarter of which they are now abandoning due to erosion caused by global sea level rise. They are already global warming refugees! Our work there focuses on restoring coral reef growth to restore the lobster and fish populations, and growing Biorock shore protection reefs to save their islands from erosion and grow new islands. The Guna are a remarkable traditional culture that never lost their independence, have preserved all their cultural and political institutions, yet greatly value education and modern knowledge. Although TG is of Ngobe Indian descent (the largest and poorest indigenous community in Panama), his family have worked closely with the Gunas for generations, and he has complete authorization by the Guna Government to do environmental restoration projects there, something no other outsider has. The local will is there, but funding is nonexistent for independent Indigenous communities.
The Comca’ac (Seri) Indians of the Sea of Cortes are the smallest and most remarkable Indigenous culture of Mexico. They survived for hundreds of years in barren desert islands by diving for seafood, in particular, several unusual endemic species now on the verge of extinction. TG dived with them to understand the growth conditions of their unique biological resources and is working with them to develop their remarkable tidal energy resources to produce electricity, fresh water, Biorock building materials that consume CO2 from the atmosphere, and much more productive Biorock mariculture of their threatened native species.
Indonesia has the world’s largest, richest, and most biodiverse coral reefs, yet around 95% have been badly damaged. Our Indonesian team has built around 300 Biorock coral reef restoration projects in many islands of Indonesia, including Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi, Sumbawa, Java, and Ambon. These have created prosperous ecotourism communities, restored fisheries, preserved coral reefs from dying from global warming, grown back severely eroded beaches in months, and won many international environmental awards, including the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development and the Special UN Development Programme Special Award for Oceans and Coastal Management. The Biorock Indonesia team is developing plans for large Biorock mangrove restoration projects in areas destroyed for shrimp farms that will become Orang Utan habitat in Kalimantan (Borneo) as well as major mangrove peat carbon sinks, restoring areas damaged by mining in Sulawesi and Halmahera, and restoring eroded beaches in Raja Ampat, West Papua. We have trained hundreds of Indonesian students in the new restoration methods, but there is no funding for them to help the fishing communities all across this nation of 17,000 islands and 250 million people that are asking for training to also re-grow their reefs, fisheries, and shorelines as the first communities we trained have done.
In Vanuatu, TG trained a fishing community to build a dozen Biorock reefs to restore their own coral reefs, which were dynamited, dredged, turned into an airstrip by the US military in 1943, and never recovered. Fishing villages all around Vanuatu, concerned about their reefs, have tried all other methods of coral reef restoration, and found that they all failed. Now, having seen the results of the Biorock pilot projects, they all want training too to develop their own community reef fisheries mariculture projects. Their eagerness to learn methods to be more productive and less destructive is incredible, and we are delighted to help them!
TG’s family has worked with local Aboriginal communities to document the health of their corals on the Great Barrier Reef for generations, and have photos of the same reefs from 1927, 1950, 1967, and 1998. We need to repeat these photos and videos again, now that most of the corals have died from global warming in 2017, exactly as we had predicted would happen. We will work directly with the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Daintree Forest, owners of Low Isle, where we stayed and photographed each time, to restore their dead coral reefs and establish their Sea Rights to all of their territory, underwater as well as above. TG is a hereditary member the Dhuwa Yolngu Aboriginals of Arnhem Land, the oldest culture in Australia, which has preserved knowledge of all the places they lived in the last 50,000 years, including those drowned by the sea after the last Ice Age.
GEOTHERAPY GLOBAL CLIMATE REGENERATION STRATEGIES
GCRA is helping The Commonwealth Secretariat (CS), 52 countries with 2.5 billion people, a third of the Earth’s population, develop a strategy of Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change, for presentation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December. This aims to stabilize CO2 at pre-industrial levels in decades, to prevent runaway climate change impacts. Our Geotherapy book and recent FAO papers on factors controlling rates of regenerative drawdown and long-term storage of CO2 in soils provide the scientific basis of the strategy. We have also developed superior Biorock electric restoration methods for mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, whose peat soils are the most cost-effective carbon sinks on the planet.
There won’t be any operational funding for strategy development or implementation until after approval by the Commonwealth Secretariat in June, and UNFCCC in December, but the CS has asked TG to advise them on marine issues and present the scientific foundations of the strategy to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon in March 2017 in Rome, the Society for Ecological Restoration Conference in Brazil in August, and at UNFCCC.
It will also be very important to make other such strategically critical presentations where needed to help support the strategy development in the coming months, especially with the majority of the Commonwealth nations, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific, Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. GCRA has worked directly on coral reef issues in almost every single SIDS in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, and has close contacts with may SIDS environmental groups and governments, starting with Jamaica, where GCRA originated. GCRA is therefore extremely familiar with the local environmental management problems and can identify the specific locations that would most benefit from regenerative development strategies in each of these countries.
HIGH IMPACT DOCUMENTARY FILMS
GCRA, and its partner, the Soil Carbon Alliance, seek funding to complete three documentary films, and books, of critical importance to climate strategies:
DIRT RICH by Marcelina Cravat, Passelande Films, Berkeley. Shows how soil carbon is being increased by many methods around the world, and how it can reverse global climate change. Filming is already complete, and funding is needed for final editing and production phases, including soundtrack, narrators, promotion, etc. We have previously collaborated on ANGEL AZUL, about underwater art, tourism, coral reefs, dolphins, algae, and sewage in Cancun.
CORAL GHOSTS by Andrew Nisker, Take Action Films, Toronto. The history of coral reefs, the most climatically threatened ecosystem, from life to death, and hopefully to regeneration. Funding is needed for filming at critical sites around the world, in the Great Barrier Reef, Jamaica, Bahamas, Indonesia, Micronesia, Panama, the Red Sea, and others to compare with our underwater photograph collection, the world’s largest and oldest, in order to understand the causes of the changes at each reef, and show how to reverse them. We will focus on training local Indigenous fishing communities to restore their coral reefs and fisheries, especially the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Great Barrier Reef. We have previously collaborated on GROUND WARS, in production for The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, on health and environmental impacts of golf course chemicals on coral reef and human health.
SCIENCES OF LIFE, TECHNOLOGIES OF DEATH: THE 1970 MIT STUDENT STRIKE AGAINST WEAPONS RESEARCH AND THE MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN SCIENCE by Tom Goreau & Videosphere, Cambridge, MA. MIT students in 1970 went on strike specifically over the issue of weapons research on campus, at a time when all other campuses were focused on the Viet Nam War. MIT succeeded in stifling debate on the issue by expelling the student leaders, but the undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty, and administration led the formation of many organizations focused on the social responsibility of science and engineering. The moral issues raised nearly 50 years ago are just as relevant today in the era of mass bombing and global warming, but have been effectively ignored since 1970. The various points of view of the many participants from all sides are being explored by interviews with the surviving leaders of the 1970 events on all sides.
GLOBAL CORAL REEF ALLIANCE – SOIL CARBON ALLIANCE
GCRA/SCA is a global non-profit network of volunteers working with essentially no funding on direct action projects with local communities to protect and manage coral reefs, and all other ecosystems, all around the globe. For more than 25 years GCRA has provided cutting edge research on community-based ecosystem restoration and management in developing countries and indigenous communities, the impacts of global climate change on ecosystems, and helped invent important new technologies to reverse them and regenerate the ecosystem services providing our planetary life support systems, founded on restoration of natural biogeochemical recycling processes.