First Artificial Coral Modules Placed off Caribbean Island to Restore Dying Reefs
Coral reefs are some of the ecosystems most vulnerable to the climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that if global warming reaches even two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, 99 percent of them will die off.
Yet these unique ecosystems, which currently only take up less than 0.1 percent of ocean space, support more than 25 percent of marine biodiversity. To help restore and protect these important habitats, the innovative project OceanShot placed its first-ever human-made “coral modules” off the coast of Antigua and Barbuda Monday.
“This is our moon shot — but instead of launching up, we’re launching down,” OceanShot co-founder and climate scientist and marine biologist Dr. Deborah Brosnan said in a press release. “With OceanShot, we are restoring the place that is critical to human survival today — as well as for our future. Without healthy oceans, there is no us.”
OceanShot was launched a year ago by Brosnan and philanthropist entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria to help restore reefs that are already struggling. It is backed by the Global Citizen Forum and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
Currently, more coral is lost each day than can be restored in 10 years, and the world’s oceans have already lost half of their reefs. Global warming killed off 14 percent of reefs between 2010 and 2020 alone, according to Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network data reported by The Hill.
Warming ocean temperatures are responsible for coral bleaching, in which the hot water drives away the algae that give coral nutrients and color. In addition to bleaching, the climate crisis also threatens coral because increased carbon dioxide in the oceans leads to ocean acidification. Reefs are also threatened by more localized pollution from agriculture and coastal development as well as overfishing.
The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is an example of a place whose reefs have almost entirely died, which is partly why it was chosen to be the first site of the OceanShot project, according to the press release. The country has suffered from the loss of its reefs, which protect islands from storm surges and prevent erosion. Some of its beaches are disappearing at a rate of 10 feet per year.
“The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda proudly pledged its full support to OceanShot from the outset,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said in the press release. “We are the first country on which the project’s scalable solutions have been deployed. Prioritizing ocean resilience and blue economy for our citizens are among the most important initiatives being developed on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda.”
OceanShot spent a year developing its restoration project with scientists of different specialities as well as local residents. It involved three main components:
- Coral reef modules: These are human-made structures that are designed to provide habitat and protect the coasts. The first were made by Reef Cells.
- 2,000 corals: These corals were raised by the community to be “planted” on the modules.
- A living lab: This is an ongoing site of experimentation on Barbuda for reef restoration.
The first five modules were put in place off the coast of Barbuda’s Coco Point on Monday, Brosnan announced on Instagram.
“Today we created history,” she said on Instagram.
The team also placed AI cameras in the seabed to monitor the success of the project.
While the OceanShot is starting in one Caribbean location, Brosnan hoped to see it expand to other islands in the future.
“This isn’t just a science project, this is a full-scale solution that might be the answer to saving small island nations,” she said. “We now know how to design and build reefs, and locate them so we get maximum benefits for the coast, as well as reviving fisheries and local communities’ blue economies.”
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