3D-printed reefs mimicking the texture and structure of real ones might be less vulnerable to climate change.
Few 3D-printed reefs have been installed in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Persian Gulf, and Australia. The goal is for them to attract fish but also baby coral polyps to turn to new reefs and help coral recover from the bleaching crisis.
Essential but extremely fragile, coral reefs around the world are facing serious threats. A paper published recently in Nature documented hundreds of miles of bleached Australian reefs.
According to National Geographic, designing 3D reefs is a meticulous task and can be compared to designing an entire city filled with extremely specific inhabitants.
“It is an interesting step forward, in terms of putting something back that is really reflective of what was there originally,” says Ruth Gates, a marine scientist at the University of Hawaii who researches coral resiliency to climate change. “I think it’s great.”
It’s hard to assess the exact effect these fake reefs will have on the ecosystems but they are definitely bringing hope in the face of the coral bleaching crisis.
“You are talking about a very complex environment, a complex animal with a lot of variations with each subspecies,” explains Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the late, famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
“All of this is an experiment. In the short term, we’ve seen a lot of positive momentum with certain species of coral. But remember, this is a drop in the bucket in a very, very large ocean.”
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