What are Artificial Reefs?
Artificial reefs are man-made underwater structures that mimic some of the natural qualities that hard-bottomed ecosystems have in the ocean. They provide three-dimensional structure, food and shelter for fish and invertebrate populations, and have been found to act as a biofilter and enhance biodiversity.
When reefs deteriorate due to climate change, warming, and acidification, they erode faster than corals can build back their calcium carbonate skeletons. Eventually, this causes a loss of the three-dimensional structure that houses the amazing biodiversity of animals that live on coral reefs. Conservation organizations have adopted artificial reefs as a restoration strategy with the hopes of revitalizing fish populations, creating additional hard substrate for corals to settle, and as a tourist attraction to deter divers and snorkelers from natural reefs.
In the global artificial reef market, scalability, durability, bio-promotion, and cost have limited their success for conservation of coral reefs. Solutions that are complex and require a high amount of engineering, such as 3D printing, are too expensive to address coral decline on a regional scale. Additionally, the binding agents used in 3D printing are harmful and can be toxic to marine life. Many of these small, intricate solutions also cannot withstand harsh marine conditions on meaningful ecological time scales. Corals grow over decades and centuries on natural substrates, but many structures made from metal, traditional concrete, and ceramic would be unable to support corals for the entire duration of their lives.
IntelliReefs are designed to enable precision control of pH values, surface chemistry, and texture to attract target marine species and enhance the growth of calcareous organisms, such as crustose coralline algae (CCA), shellfish, and corals. Portland cement has an approximate pH of about 12 and has been observed to irritate and even burn animal’s tissues. Oceanite mixtures can currently attain a pH of 8.1 – roughly the same as the surrounding seawater. This prevents injury and irritation to marine life and promotes rapid, long-term, and healthy growth, as shown in the photographs below.