An island in the Caribbean has found a unique way of preserving corals: 3D printing.
The Harbour Village Beach Club in Bonaire has teamed up with conservationist, oceanographer and filmmaker Fabien Cousteau in designing and printing artificial corals that are identical in shape, size, texture and chemical composition to the Caribbean's real corals.
Warmer temperatures and pollution have affected coral reefs in the world's oceans, leading to coral bleaching and sometimes even coral deaths. As the corals suffer, the organisms that depend on them are affected as well.
Traditional coral reef preservation and rebuilding methods are often time consuming and labor intensive. Cousteau's 3D printed artificial corals could attract baby coral polyps, which would eventually reproduce and grow into new reefs. The reefs will then be able to attract organisms that dwell in coral reefs, such as algae, anemones, crabs and fish, and rebuild a new and diverse reef ecosystem.
"We are pleased to use advanced knowledge of prominent sea issues to make Bonaire an example for the Caribbean and other areas of the world," Eric Ewoldt, executive director of Harbour Village, told CaribJournal. "We know 3D printing efforts have worked in Monaco and the Gulf States among others. With the development of our Ocean Learning Center, now is the perfect time to launch this technology in Bonaire."
Reef-building corals are small polyp-like animals that form calcium-carbonate shells around themselves and thrive in a symbiotic relationship with certain types of algae, The New York Times reports. The artificial corals will be made of limestone and sandstone, and will be deployed off the shore of Harbour Village Beach Club.
The group will start 3D printing corals later this year using equipment at Harbour Village's Ocean Learning Center, but the exact location for the restoration is yet to be picked. Each step involved in the printing and restoration processes will be documented and will be showcased in an exclusive documentary and educational materials.
"3D printed corals can generate real change and establish real growth for reefs, one of the key attractions for visitors and divers alike in Bonaire," Cousteau said in the same statement. "This technology is less labor-intensive than current coral restoration processes, creating a larger impact in a shorter amount of time."
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