What Could Save Our Coral Reefs? 3D Printing


Warm, acidic waters are creating the most pervasive bleaching events in known human history for the world’s coral reefs.

This outcome eliminates their color and opportunities to support life.

One of the ways that ecologists propose that they could be saved is through a unique solution: 3D printing. Reef Design Lab placed a small artificial reef in shallow water to see how fast it could turn into a valuable marine habitat.

It only took eight months for the installation to transform into a contributing part of the local ecosystem.

How Would a 3D Artificial Reef Work?

We create artificial coral reefs by dropping concrete blocks into shallow water. Sunken ships encourage life to bind to the structures. Algae, anemones, and barnacles work together to create a marine habitat that imitates the natural product.

Baby coral polyps love the colors of pink and white. When there are holes, grooves, and crevices for them to use, then it begins the rebuilding process.

Bleaching happens when those coral polyps eject their algae. That action causes them to turn white. If it cannot be reversed, then the coral could die.

Teams in Monaco and Bahrain are using pastel-colored sandstone reefs that mimic the texture and shape of coral. Since the surface offers a neutral pH, it becomes an attractive destination for the polyps to start building a new reef.

Coral reefs are responsible for over 25% of ocean life even though they occupy less than 1% of our ocean floor. Saving them allows our food chain and economic systems to remain in place.





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