One of the great problems of coral reefs is uncontrolled human activity, which often plunders them to the point of destruction, causing enormous damage to the environment and impoverishing the underwater flora and fauna. But some determined people are doing something to stem this destructive process in one of the most prone to this phenomenon on the planet: the Philippines.
Biri Initiative, a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by a Scotsman, Richard Ewen, is actively working with several other entities and the government of the Philippines to limit the damage caused by this mismanagement of the environment and is doing so thanks to Reefbud technology.
Reefbud, the shell that regenerates the environment
The Reefbud looks like some kind of colossal turtle shell and weighs about 450 kg. It is made of two materials: 75% concrete and 25% biomass. This means that once placed on the seabed, it becomes the ideal place for the development of underwater fauna: corals attach themselves to it, algae and plankton feed on the organic compound, and within a short time, even in wholly desertified areas, the Reefbud develops a micro-ecosystem of algae, anemones, crustaceans and small fish that is quick to expand, especially if placed near other modules.
But the biggest problem of the Reefbud is represented by the considerable size and weight, which require the installation employing an equipped boat and preclude the use in the most adjacent areas that instead would gain significant benefits. In addition, it has a not inconsiderable cost, especially for use in emerging countries, of $800 per module.
That’s why Biri Initiative has worked to produce a smaller version of the Reefbud, which weighs only a third (150 kg), is less expensive (less than $300), and can also be laid by unequipped boats.
The Mini-Reefbud, a project that works
Miniaturization of the Reefbud began in 2013 after several locations in the Philippines had deployed their larger relatives, with enormous success. Thanks to sponsors such as the Loren Legarda Foundation and a $1.3 million investment, 5,000 Reefbuds were deployed along Boracay’s famous White Beach.
According to project manager Ariel Abraham, the performance of the Reefbuds in recent years has been an outstanding success, bringing back to life a stretch of reef that had been considered virtually dead just a few years earlier. Instead, the first 50 Mini Reefbuds have been placed at Sabang Beach, alongside the full-sized Reefbuds that are already proving to be very effective – an estimated 95% effective.
More recently, Biri Initiative launched Project 250, a project to place 150 Reefbud and 100 coral cages on the seafloor near Northern Samar. The latter proved effective in retrieving broken but still living pieces of coral, exposing them to a constant flow of water and nutrients. They have been arranged to form a water park, where tourists can don their wetsuits, tanks, fins and diving watches to observe it, after paying a small fee to help the organization spread the initiative in more areas. This has attracted the attention of many specialized and non-specialized media outlets and is encouraging the recovery of these beautiful and fragile environments.