THE TECHNOLOGY surrounding 3D printing has been around for quite a few years now, however we are just now starting to see offshoots of ingenuity for conservation biology when it comes to manufacturing complex structures out of synthetic materials.
On the Caribbean island of Bonaire, Netherland Antilles, 3D printing is going to be put to good use to create complex artificial geometric structures resembling corals to aid in recruitment of new, healthy reef organisms. Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the late oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, is partnering with local efforts in Bonaire to make 3D printing of corals a reality.
“The Bonaire park is already host to experiments in re-growing coral in nurseries and extensive research. The island, about 50 miles north of Venezuela, is one of the bright spots for reefs in the Caribbean, where the iconic reefs have been devastated by the effects of pollution, development and climate change.”
– Associated Press, Source
Artificial coral reefs can already be found around the globe and are known to facilitate the recruitment of coral species and numerous other marine organisms. Currently most of the artificial reefs that have been deployed are manufactured using concrete and steel or consist of placing familiar structures on the ocean floor (see post) for colonization.
3D printing of artificial reefs has already been tested in the Middle East, however this will be the first instance of implementation into the Caribbean. These proposed 3D-printed artificial structures will be made of layered limestone and sandstone, which will mimic natural reef substrate in texture and composition. The labor associated with 3D printing will be significantly less than current methods for deploying artificial reef substrate, according to Fabien Cousteau, and will be able to create a larger overall impact in a shorter amount of time. Creating viable substrate for coral recruitment will surely prove to be extremely important given the decline of coral reef health across the tropics.
Coral reefs are an essential part of the underwater web of life,” Cousteau comments to The Associated Press. “They are the rainforest, if you will, of water, of life under water, including about 70 percent of species which live and thrive or depend on coral reefs at some point within the life cycle.
–The Science Explorer, Source