Maritechture system is set to boost coral reef restoration efforts
In an effort to restore damaged coral reefs, some groups are growing hardy varieties of coral in nurseries, then transplanting them onto existing reef beds. The new Maritechture system is designed to streamline that process, allowing it to be performed on a much larger scale.
Maritechture was created by the Coral Hub team at Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). It's being commercialized via spinoff company Ocean Revive.
The system consists of four components: Coral Tiles, Coral Crates, Reef Nails and Coral Pods.
In an indoor or outdoor nursery setting, clients such as marine conservation groups start by growing fragments of climate-change-tolerant coral on the small limestone Tiles. Rows of those coral-bearing Tiles are placed in the stackable pallet-like Crates, which are transported from the nursery to the degraded reef site.
Scuba divers then proceed to transfer the Tiles from the Crates onto the reef bed, using the Nails to anchor them onto the existing dead-coral reef bed. If no such bed is present, the Pods come into play. They're modular three-dimensional limestone structures which are placed on the sea floor, where they serve as a substitute host for the Tiles.
Each Crate can carry up to 56 Coral Tiles. According to Ocean Revive, a two-person dive team can secure over 50 of those Tiles onto a reef bed in 30 minutes. A microchip in each Tile can subsequently be read by a handheld device, allowing clients to keep track of information such as which varieties of coral fare best in which settings.
The Coral Pods can be flat-packed for easier transit, then assembled onsite. It is estimated that a team of six divers could deploy 90 of the Pods in half a day, creating up to 250 sq m (2,691 sq ft) of artificial reefscape. As an added bonus, it has been found that waterborne coral polyps will naturally colonize the Pods, adding to the nursery-grown coral fragments on the Tiles.
Plans call for the Maritechture system to be used in KAUST's Reefscape Restoration Initiative at Shushah Island, which is billed as being the world's largest restoration project to date. A paper on the technology was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.
Sources: Ocean Revive, KAUST via AlphaGalileo
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