Artificial Reefs

9 images Created 28 Mar 2014

There's no denying our coral reefs are in peril. With roughly a quarter of all marine life in our oceans relying on them for survival, they provide a critical habitat for all types of animals and plants. However, they are fading fast on account of mankind's drive for development. If the current rate of destruction continues, it's expected that up to 70% of the world’s coral reefs will have disappeared within a generation.

One way that scientists and conservationists are helping corals to fight back is through the creation of artificial reefs. These are man-made structures or natural objects that are placed in selected marine areas and provide a base structure for reefs to form and grow healthy with relative shelter and safety. There are several methods employed, from sinking old battleships to electrifying PVC piping, but the underlying principle is the same.

When an ocean current meets a vertical impediment, deeper water must flow upward, in many cases bringing up colder, nutrient rich water, which provides food for small fish and invertebrates. This creates a chain reaction, whereby larger fish come to prey on the smaller ones as population densities increase. In addition, the sunken structures provide a much-needed shelter for cryptic species such as grouper, snapper, eels, triggerfish, anemonefish, squirrelfish and many other reef fish. Predatory species such as sharks, barracuda and jacks will also venture into the vicinity if a sufficient and reliable food source becomes available. Overtime, corals, sponges, tunicates and other benthic species will recruit onto the structures and vie for space. Slowly, a true coral reef forms and the original man-made structure is enveloped.

Shipwrecks are usually the most popular types of sunken artificial reef sites to explore around the world. The structures may vary in different locations, but their underlying and primary purpose is the same; to protect and save our coral reefs.
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