Florida Town Wants to Grow Coral Reefs with Electricity

A clown fish (or Nemo as sometimes called).As coral reefs around the world continue to disappear, one Florida town has taken the initiative by investing $60,000 to stimulate coral reef growth using electricity. While there is not yet peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that using a low powered electrical current works, scientists are not dismissing the idea. The company that has been hired to make the reefs claims that they have had many prior successes. [social_buttons]

The town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea has hired the company Global Coral Reef Alliance to construct the artificial reefs. The group is licensed to use the technology made by a company known as Biorock. What Biorock makes are steel frames suitable for underwater use that have a strength comparable to concrete. A low power electrical current is run through the frames and helps to stimulate the growth of limestone rock and corals (it does not harm animals). You can see some photos of Biorock’s technology by clicking here.

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s plan is to have six of these structures located off of its beach, in close proximity to a reef that has been deteriorating. They will be in the shape of airplane hangers and will be about 6 feet in length. Two buoys that would be placed directly above the water’s surface would collect solar energy using panels, and distribute the low power electricity current below. Corals from nearby areas that are still alive, yet isolated, would be added to the frames to help increase the speed of reef growth.

The plan still needs to be permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers. Several conservationists with ties to the area first proposed the idea, and it is hoped that restored reefs would help generate tourism for the town. It has been known in the past for having easy beach access for viewing coral reefs– a key plus for scuba divers and tour groups.

What is not clear is whether or not the use of an electrical current actually works to stimulate growth of corals. The Sun Sentinel writes the following:

John McManus, director of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the University of Miami, said there’s no doubt steel frames will grow coral, if only because they provide a surface off the murky floor of the ocean. But while a mild electric current stimulates coral growth initially, he said it’s unclear whether the benefit continues after the coral has thickened enough to block the current. Most important, he said, there have been no studies comparing electrified steel structures with identical structures without electricity. “There’s not much evidence to say it’s worth putting the electricity through,” he said. “It’s probably not going to do any harm. It might do some good.”

The Global Coral Reef Alliance and Biorock on the other hand, claim that their technology and reefs have been successful. They have built reefs around the world in the waters of countries like Mexico, Panama, Thailand, and Indonesia.

In any case, it’s great to see a Florida community doing their best to help restore coral reefs. Reefs are threatened on a major scale because of global climate change and pollution, among other significant causes.

Photo Credit: Richard Musset on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

10 thoughts on “Florida Town Wants to Grow Coral Reefs with Electricity”

  1. I’ve seen this process first hand. It’s truly amazing. Bio-rock is a bio-stimulating system, the corals and other forms of calcerous life growing on the frames is nothing short of phenomenal. Big chunks of Indonesias reefs have been blown to sh*t or poisoned with cyanide to such an extent the bottom is just rubble. Then, you swim over one of these little oases of life clinging to this spidery frame.

    Seriously, go look for yourself if you can and then, get active. This is the way to save our worldwide coral ecosystems.

  2. In Cuba this technique was tried without adding the live coral and relied on calcification alone to demonstrate that concrete like pipe could be grown underwater with an electrical charge through the ferrous framework. circa 1970?

  3. Steven Anderson

    I have only heard how important coral reefs are. They are alive and we should do anything we can to help them survive. They do help us. More reefs of coral. The only coral I have seen in Montana are fossilised.

  4. That seems like a novel concept to put electricity INTO water(via the steel framework)to grow coral! Wow.
    Somebody had their thinking cap on! It wills be amazing to keep an eye on how this develops. Thanks for sharing it G.R. Otter!

  5. Today was the first day of “The Great Depression” Efforts should be focused on feeding the poor city folk with no gardens. We can no longer afford to hide our heads in the sand or corral reefs for that matter – we must convert our parks into veggie gardens and develop aquaculture to feed protien to the starving masses that are about to develop as the system breaks down. We already have a large number of people force out of work and homes due to the money crunch. This is the tip of a huge iceberg – look at what happened in the U.S.S.R. – no one their believed it could happen, it did! Anarchy rules their now and will take over here too if we don’t have food! We have a mainly urban population, unlike the dirty 30’s and they are defenseless in their apartments without cash!They will starve and riot in the streets – we must feed them! Don’t panic, plant something – and get out and vote the uber-rich bastards that caused this out of office! Never mind the goddam coral reefs for now!

  6. This is a great idea.

    Although I do not know the implications of “artificial” ecosystems for the “real” ecosystem. But I think it is great!

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