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New manmade coral reef deployed off coast of islands in hopes of restoring ocean ecosystem

The Hill logo The Hill 10/4/2022 Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech
© Provided by The Hill

Story at a glance

  • A new type of built coral reef has been deployed off the coast of Antigua and Barbuda.  
  • Coral reef restoration project OceanShot designed the structures and implemented them with the help of the Antigua and Barbuda government.  
  • The organization chose the island nation to host the new reefs since nearly all of their coral has died due to climate change.  

Researchers have deployed a new type of coral reef restoration technique off the coast of Antigua and Barbuda.  

The “coral modules,” which are manmade structures with 2,000 living coral attached, were designed to help reverse the effects of climate change, which has killed almost all the islands’ coral reefs.  

The new coral modules are meant to help protect the islands’ coastal communities from the impact of storms and sea level rise.  

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Coral reefs act as a buffer and protect coastlines from waves, storms and floods. Without that reef, coastlines are much more susceptible to storm damage or erosion.  

They are also meant to replenish the island’s marine life, which has taken a hit due to dwindling coral numbers.  

The modules were created by climate scientist and marine biologist Deborah Brosnan and entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria with the help of the Antigua and Barbuda government. 

Coral reef shape plays a key role in the biodiversity it attracts and the ecosystem services it provides, according to Brosnan. So to allow for the indigenous marine life of the islands to return and thrive, Brosnan designed the “coral modules” to mimic the reefs that once lived near Antigua and Barbuda.  

Two divers check up on a coral tree. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Shot Project © Provided by The Hill Two divers check up on a coral tree. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Shot Project

OceanShot, the coral reef restoration project, announced plans to create and deploy the structures last year.  

AI cameras were deployed on the ocean bed near the coral modules to monitor the reefs and to help researchers analyze the waters’ fish diversity, coral growth and wave patterns, the organization said in a statement.  

Coral reefs are home to one of the most critical ecosystems in the ocean. While they cover less than 0.1 percent of the oceans, they are home to 25 percent of the planet’s biodiversity and support over 1 billion people with a range of ecosystem services.  

Between 2010 and 2020, rising global temperatures killed 14 percent of the world’s coral reefs, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.  

“This is our moon shot – but instead of launching up, we’re launching down. 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,” said Brosnan in a statement. “This isn’t just a science project, this is a full-scale solution that might be the answer to saving small island nations. 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 economy.”

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