Revitalizing, Restoring, & Protecting Biodiversity
How IntelliReefs' Nanotechnology Addresses Species Loss
Biodiversity is closely tied to the amount of physical habitat complexity that an ecosystem has. In essence - the more crevices and unique spaces there are for animals and plants to occupy, the more opportunity there is for different species to evolve over time to fit into all the niches in the area. Corals, kelps, and mangrove trees are called "ecosystem engineers", meaning that they create the physical space and habitat for other animals to settle in. In ecosystems with a high amount of this complexity, such as tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and mangroves, high numbers of species are able to be housed in the physical space they create.
Coral reefs are known as the "rainforests of the sea", and are estimated to be the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet - even more than tropical rainforests (Coral Reef Alliance). Recent evaluations of the number of species living on reefs worldwide could be as high as 1 million unique species (Fisher et al. 2015), and it is estimated that they indirectly support about 25% of all life in the oceans.
Restoration projects globally often target a particular species or small group of species that they wish to enhance or protect. While commercially important species should be a priority to support local fisheries and tourism, using artificial reefs or man-made habitats as a means to accomplish this goal alone may be short-sighted.
By using smart substrates that automatically protect and even enhance biodiversity on a site, a restoration habitat for one species can also serve as a "bio-bank" for hundreds more.
IntelliReefs creates custom marine habitats using the proprietary nanotechnology, Oceanite. We design species-, function-, and site-specific mineral mixtures to mimic the complexity and diversity of compounds found in natural ecosystems and address target conservation goals. The complex system of pores produced by our mixtures optimizes animal settlement, creating more surface area per square inch. This enhances biodiversity and protects early growth stages of marine species. Together, these two features make Oceanite the ideal substrate for capturing and growing wild coral spawn and farming coral fragments and transplanted colonies.
Fish, sponge, and shark species settling on and using IntelliReefs deployed in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.
The Power of Small: How Local Biodiversity Revitalizes Reefs
The physical structure of Oceanite is nanoengineered to optimize settling surface for marine organisms. The porosity created by the mix design of Oceanite mineral growth matrices provides more surface area per cubic inch for animals to live in the crevices, creating a living substrate that is unparalleled in marine construction materials. Recently, researchers found that IntelliReefs in Sint Maarten can support more than 100% coverage of marine plants and animals on the outer and inner surfaces of the structures. Our mixtures and designs are also engineered to optimize strength and durability and can withstand marine storms and conditions for hundreds of years.
Other marine substrates in the industry - Portland cement, 3D printers & their binders, and metal - that are used for restoration of animal populations (i.e. commercially important corals, fish, etc.) are not able to provide the conservation goal-oriented chemical compositions, or targeted pH values, leaving ocean species vulnerable to toxins and burning from high pH values. In addition, none of the other technology on the market can add the secondary benefit of enhancing biodiversity naturally as they also address other, high-priority goals.
Globally, reef conservation organizations need to make the conscious choice to only add artificial habitats and man-made structures onto reefs if they do not harm the existing ecosystem, address conservation goals on a large, ecologically relevant scale, and allow nature to build-up it's resilience to environmental and anthropogenic stressors.