Skip to main content

Our latest weapon in the fight to save dying coral reefs is … a concrete pod?

Coral reefs are rapidly degrading around the world. As a result, conservationists can carry out coral transplants, in which coral grown in one place is moved to another to help rehabilitate imperiled reef communities. Unfortunately, this can be extremely expensive and labor intensive, which limits how widely it is performed. One of the most costly phases in the process is the physical attachment of corals back to the reef, in which teams of workers secure the corals to their new home using cable ties, epoxy, and underwater drills.

A new approach pioneered by marine ecology group Secore International could make things easier and more affordable, however. Researchers on the project have developed small tetrapod-shaped concrete structures, which can be seeded with coral larvae. These spiky pods, called Seeding Units, can be wedged into reef crevices, without needing to be attached using other materials. Because of this, divers can place thousands of corals on the reef in a short amount of time — resulting in a substantial cost reduction of up to 18-fold. The team has been exploring this technology since 2014, focusing initially on smaller areas.

Related Videos

“We wanted to verify if the seeding units would indeed remain in place on the reef, and we also had to assess if the young corals would survive and grow on the substrates in the reef environment,” Valérie Chamberland, a research scientist at Secore International based on Curacao, told Digital Trends. “We are also testing this technique on a range of reef habitat types, and with a range of different coral species. On Curacao, we have implemented about 12 pilot sites around the island — including reefs ranging from a healthy to a degraded state — where coral offspring of a total of seven species have been outplanted using the sowing technique. While the success of this new technique varies depending on the coral species and on the environmental quality of the restoration site, the results are promising.”

The team now hopes to take these findings, described in a recent article published in Scientific Reports, and use them to apply the approach to larger areas.

“We are further developing and refining technologies that will enable us to mass-produce coral offspring at low costs and with low labor investments,” Chamberland continued. “We currently can only produce at most a few hundred Seeding Units at a time due to logistical constraints, such as manual production of our current tetrapod design and labor-intensive culture methods for the larvae small-volume laboratory facilities. Thus, our additional areas of development include implementing industrial production of the improved tetrapod designs and methods for large-scale culture of coral offspring directly in the ocean.”

Editors' Recommendations

CRISPR could one day help conservationists save our ocean’s coral

The oceans are under attack and all signs point toward humans as the perpetrators. Sea temperatures are rising, fish populations are dwindling, and coral reefs are experiencing an unprecedented die-off called bleaching. For most accounts, the future for plants and animals on Earth looks pretty grim.

One could argue that rampant advances in technology are what got us here in the first place. But, in a similar vein, technological progress may be the planet’s last hope for survival.

Read more
The latest weapon in the fight against potholes? Your smartphone
roadbotics ai roadways gettyimages 671400733


Keeping tabs on the quality of roadways isn’t an easy job. With tens of thousands of miles for public officials to monitor, and a limited budget to do so with, it’s no surprise that some public roads can fall into a state of disrepair that makes them unpleasant to drive on.

Read more
Ingenious pipeline could be a much-needed lifeline for dying coral reefs
coral reefs

Recently, the U.S. lost half of its Caribbean coral reefs in one year due to climate change. Data later confirmed that the thermal stress on the coral system was greater than the previous 20 years combined. These so-called "bleaching events" occur when corals are stressed by changes in the environment and expel their symbiotic algae. The exodus of algae causes the reef to turn completely white, thus the term bleaching. Professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, Mo Ehsani, believes using a system to deliver cool water directly to colonies at risk could reverse this dire trend.

Ehsani has been testing fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) products for nearly three decades and founded, QuakeWrap, a construction company specializing in FRP commodities, in 1994. To prevent bleaching, Ehsani plans to pump cooler water to at risk coral through a lightweight FRP pipe. Unlike traditional rigid concrete or steel, FRP pipes are more cost effective and much easier to construct and install.

Read more