In recognition of World Ocean Day, I found this intriguing information on the page about the bing image of the day.

Biorocks growing coral off the Gili Islands, Indonesia

‘Biorock,’ aka ‘seacrete,’ is a substance that helps spur growth of corals and reef ecosytems in areas where natural reefs have died-off. The process involves submerging a metal frame in seawater. Then a low-voltage charge is applied to it (not enough to harm marine life). This charge gradually causes calcium and other minerals to build up on the frame, creating conditions similar to substrate (foundation) of natural reefs. Divers then transplant coral fragments from other reefs. Attached to the structure’s frame they begin to grow, typically faster than in natural environments. Eventually the reef looks and functions like a natural reef ecosystem rather than an artificial one. This biorock reef is off the coast of the Gili Islands, Indonesia.

The Real Issue

I watched a movie recently about a group of divers attempting to replicate the process they used in “Chasing Ice” to document the demise of coral reefs world wide. The movie “Chasing Coralcame out in 2017. It brought my attention to a demoralizing prospect of losing these reefs. Not only are they mind-boggling in their beauty and array of species they support, they are largely responsible for the health of the Ocean and from that the very air we breathe.

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash
Here’s looking at YOU (and me, too) asking, “What will you do?”

This may be one of many impressive attempts of technological recreating and restoring some of the damage we have done. However, I have several concerns about this sort of “fix” in the bigger picture.

Concerns:

  • Where does the electricity to supply the charge to the metal frame come from? How is it produced? Bear in mind any energy use has the potential to increase carbon in the atmosphere. And that may be the root of the problem.
  • Is this a realistic solution? how much can we humans with our limited reach into and understanding of the ecological systems in the oceans really accomplish in the face of the magnitude of world coral die-off? Does this help halt the countdown to increasing catastrophe?
  • If what is causing the die-off is, at least in part, “Warm water temperatures caused by a combination of long-term climate change and short-lived weather phenomena like El Niño”, what do we do to halt that impending catastrophe?
  • And what do we not know about this attempt that many be causing even more harm. Could it repeat the mess made by the Osborne Reef near Fort Lauderdale? Do we need to further alter the ocean in ways we have not yet imagined? Will we discover in 35 years another grave mistake has been made?
  • How can we better replicate nature’s own healing power to undo the damage we are doing, without creating unintended consequences?
Layers and layers of challenges require creating equally complex alternatives
Layers of colorful coral, a tiny glimpse into the complex system of a reef

Getting to the Root of the Matter

From a Time story on the topic, this information (three years old, published in 2016):

A number of factors—from water pollution to disease—can irritate corals. Any of these can cause them to expel the colored algae known as zooxanthellae that they live with symbiotically. Warm water temperatures, caused by a combination of long-term climate change and short-lived weather phenomena like El Niño, deserve the blame for the current bleaching episode.

(From “An underwater investigation of coral bleaching in the South Pacific” 
BY JUSTIN WORLAND

Lack of substrate does not cause the die-off called bleaching. How then would creating new substrate and seeding it with bits of coral resolve the main concern? What is being done to determine the causes of the disease? or to address the water pollution issue. I am thrilled to learn automobiles are not allowed on at least some of the Gili Islands. However, at the same time they are drawing tourists who travel there by plane and motorboat. These are two even greater contributors of carbon emissions. Is this project that “helps spur growth … in areas that have seen die-offs” intended to boost the attraction for tourism? Those dollars continue to fuel the runaway feedback loop killing the reefs world-wide. Those seeking those dollars don’t want to alarm those with the financial means to make a real difference.

Real Change?

(Regarding the film “Chasing Coral”) “But, Orlowski did not put his heart, soul, and filmmaker’s mastery in this film to discourage. He wants us to change, and concludes his film with initiatives to bring more public attention to this loss and ways to stop it.”

This conundrum befuddles me. Any responses, ideas, additional questions, thoughts, dear readers and fellow breathers?

Please leave a comment in the Comments section. Let’s start a conversation that won’t disappear in the scrolling Facebook feed.

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