A steely jump start
How coral growth is boosted off Barbados
For years, coral reefs worldwide have been suffering from changed environmental conditions: the rise in water temperature as well as the acidification and pollution of water are damaging the calcium carbonate skeletons that have grown over many years. The result: corals lose their colour, die off and become overgrown with algae.
In Barbados, the DER Touristik Foundation, in cooperation with the Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust, is supporting a pilot project for saving coral reefs using highly sophisticated technology. After all, the scale of coral death is enormous on the reefs off the Caribbean Island, too.
Source: Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust
The projects pursue a promising counter measure: Biorock technology, which was developed by German architect Wolf Hilbertz as early as the 1970s, and aims to accelerate coral growth and conserve marine biodiversity.
To this end, frames made out of steel and metal mesh, through which weak direct current flows, were sunk into the sea at Paynes Bay. Electrochemical processes initially lead to the formation of a crust on the surface made from certain salts dissolved in the sea water. Over time, a thick layer of solid limestone grows there. Real-time surveillance systems are used to permanently observe the water quality during the five-year monitoring programme.
The steel frames serve as artificial coral reefs – a great help for coral, as they don’t have to build their substrate themselves. Subsequently, living coral fragments that have broken off naturally, are transplanted onto the constructions. In direct collaboration with local researchers, it is ensured that the species of coral used can survive well at the site of the Biorock installation.
In most cases, the corals quickly accept their new habitat and can immediately convert their energy into growth. Here, they increase in size much faster than in the natural reef, and reveal their wealth of colour again in no time.
The programme funded by the DER Touristik Foundation is flanked by extensive educational work that raises the awareness in particular of pupils and young people on the issue of coral death. Now everyone hopes that, by December 2024, the coral along the West coast of Barbados will soon show its colours again, creating new habitats for marine life.
Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust
The registered charitable organisation was founded in 2019. Its vision: supporting local resources to achieve a powerful positive impact, thus bringing about effective and lasting change in nature conservation and environmental protection – transformation right from the heart of society. Foundation members act in the firm belief that local initiatives will positively change the future of the entire island state.