What is a Coral Ark and Can It Help Save Reefs?
In October 2020, a plan to house and protect a large number of hard coral species was announced. This is seen as a plan B to the coral reef restoration programs that are happening now. But what are the artificial coral reef programs that are currently happening, and are they enough? Will we have to use this coral ark?
What Is the Plan to Build a Coral Ark?
According to the Guardian, The Living Coral Biobank to be situated near the Great Barrier Reef will house 800 types of hard coral where they will be looked after and bred. It will also contain research labs and a place for people to come and see the corals.
The director of the biobank, Dr. Dean Miller, hopes that this biobank will be built by 2025. It will be built so, if coral populations are wiped out, the seas can be repopulated and coral reefs built back up.
This is obviously a situation that nobody wants to happen, however, it is becoming more realistic as every year passes and we hear more news in regards to the health of coral reefs across the globe. According to National Geographic, half of the Great Barrier Reef has been bleached to death. Because of global warming and pollution, coral bleaching is occurring in so many of the wonderful reefs around the world.
But will we actually have to use the coral reef ark at some point in the near future?
What Are The Current Artificial Coral Reef Programs?
The coral ark is not the first artificial coral reef program that scientists have been developing. Artificial coral reefs are a way of maintaining the levels of coral reefs around the world, making sure these ecosystems are still there.
We know how important coral reefs are to the ocean. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, around 25% of all marine life depends on coral reefs at some point in their life. If coral reefs disappear, the ecosystems within the oceans will dramatically change. Nobody truly knows the extent to how this will affect life on earth for every species, including humans, but everything is connected, so there is so much at risk.
Because of this, there are a number of artificial coral reef programs at work right now.
A lot of the artificial coral reefs in the ocean are shipwrecks or other sunken objects. Corals grow on the sunken objects and they become an ecosystem for marine life.
According to the National Ocean Service, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contains a number of sunken vessels. These at first were not sunk for coral reef restoration, rather for diving and fishing. However, these ships are now home to a wonderful array of corals and sponges.
Because of what has been witnessed with sunken objects, coral reef restoration groups have sunken ships in areas where coral reefs are at risk in order to create artificial reefs.
According to the National Marine Sanctuaries, four ships have been sunk within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary since 1990 with the purpose of creating artificial coral reefs. Their aim is to take the pressure off the reefs in the area in regards to diving and fishing, hoping to help the economy and the coral reefs in the area.
These are not the only sunken object artificial coral reefs in the oceans. The Artificial Reef Society of British Vancouver has sunken a number of ships in order to enhance the natural habitats of the region. It has sunk eight ships and a Boeing 747 since the charity’s conception in 1991.
This video of the sunken Boeing 747 is truly incredible to watch! It is amazing to see the amount of life that had grown on it in only 11 years.
There are a number of concrete structures that have been used to develop artificial coral reefs. According to the New Haven Reef Conservation Program, concrete resembles natural coral limestone and corals appear to thrive on these structures. Concrete is cheap and readily available, so a good choice for artificial coral reefs.
3D- Printed Artificial Coral Reefs
3D printing is a fairly new technology that is doing a lot of weird and wonderful things around the world. Because of its versatility, a lot of scientists and conservationists have turned to 3D printing in order to create artificial coral reefs. This is with the hope that the marine life that depends on coral reefs will find refuge in the 3D-printed coral reefs.
There are quite a number of these projects that exist around the world today. According to euronews.com, scientists at the University of Hong Kong have been developing 3D-printed coral reefs that mimic brain corals. These artificial coral reefs have been put in the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park in the hope that they will regenerate the coral reef population in the area.
According to Science Daily, a study by the University of Delaware’s Danielle Dixson and alumnus Emily Ruhl have found that certain reef fish do not seem to know the difference between 3D coral reefs and natural coral reefs. This is a really great sign, suggesting that there is hope in developing 3D-printed artificial coral reefs.
Other Coral Growing Projects
The coral ark project is not the only coral reef project that grows and develops endangered corals. The Pur Project aims to restore degraded coral reefs by constructing coral reefs and planting corals in areas under threat. So far, they have planted 4,779 corals.
SECORE International is another conservation organization that aims to restore coral reefs. They breed corals and promote reef resilience, developing technologies to help the coral reefs survive.
Will We Need To Use The Coral Ark?
The projects that are currently at work across the globe to create artificial coral reefs and to add more corals into the sea are great and doing amazing things. However, without changing how humanity treats planet earth, it will all be for nothing.
Because of global warming, soon the planet we live on and the oceans where coral reefs thrive will no longer be habitable. There will be no point in using the coral ark, as there will be no home for the corals.