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  • Writer's pictureEmily Higgins

March 2021 Press Release: Bioengineering Solutions for Climate Change


After 28-31 months underwater, IntelliReefs in Sint Maarten provide homes for fish and boast more biodiversity, enhanced coral settlement, and healthy reef growth in the face of climate change.


Published March 29, 2021

After just over 2 years underwater (28 months) off the coast of Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, the world’s first biomimicking nanotechnology artificial reefs are thriving. Since IntelliReefs' last monitoring round in January 2020, the world first nanotechnology artificial reefs have continued to attract and grow large stony and soft corals, fire corals, sponges, tubeworms, and a wide variety of other reef-building species.

In January 2020, IntelliReefs' divers found 6 small coral recruits from one species (Porites asteroides) on their artificial reef in the MPA off the coast of Philipsburg. This March, divers found 24 different corals on the structure from three different species (Porites asteroides, Agaricia agaricites, and Favia fragrum) - a 400% increase in visible coral recruitment. This kind of biodiversity in restoration initiatives helps provide resilience in the face of climate upcoming stressors. These key reef species provide habitat and food for other fish and invertebrates, as well as perform important ecosystem functions - such as nutrient cycling. IntelliReefs, Reef Life Foundation, and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation are currently gearing up to dive into the next round of sampling this July to further assess this ongoing study.

IntelliReefs is designing "Blue Barriers" to help build future food and economic security in the ocean. Climate change is causing oceans to rise quicker than scientists’ most pessimistic forecasts, resulting in earlier flood risks to coastal economies already struggling to adapt. IntelliReefs has developed biomimicking, self-healing coastal defense systems that protect shoreline properties and restore coral reefs at the same time.

Nature is essential for sustainably and quickly addressing the impacts of climate change. Researchers have found that healthy reefs with live corals and biodiverse reef life dissipate wave force by nearly 97% (Ferrario et al. 2014). Traditional man-made breakwaters and jetties can actually erode the seafloor by reflecting wave force instead of absorbing it, creating sinkholes and interrupting beach formation.

A recent publication in Ocean Science has revised earlier estimates, projecting that rapid sea level rise will now impact the two-fifths of the Earth’s population who live near coastlines. Insured property worth trillions of dollars could face even greater danger from floods, superstorms and tidal surges. This research suggests that countries will have to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions even more than expected to keep sea levels in check.

IntelliReefs is focusing on providing nature-based solutions to storm protection, erosion, economic and food security in 2021. They are harnessing and enhancing the best practices used by nature, designing building materials from the nanoscale up that use the same minerals that coral reefs are made of. IntelliReefs’ blue barriers are also designed to mimic natural reef formations, protecting coastlines, building beaches, reducing flooding, self-healing, and cleaning water with minimal maintenance.

To enhance the shoreline benefits of this new product line further, IntelliReefs researchers are also using blue barriers to mitigate the effects of climate change. The team will be kicking off the UN Decade of Ocean Science by addressing regional and ecosystem-wide methods for reducing ocean acidification, anoxia, and spikes in water temperature that cause bleaching. This spring, they have been invited to submit an NSF to further develop IntelliReefs products that will address coral disease remediation.

IntelliReefs is expanding their company’s research this year by deploying a small pilot in Hawai’i. The aim is to monitor coral attraction and growth on IntelliReefs biomimicking substrates during a coral spawning event this summer. This work will lay the groundwork for a larger Hawai’ian pilot project later this year that will examine how to jump-start healthy coral reef growth by “doping” underwater construction materials with key species prior to deployment. For this project, IntelliReefs will be collaborating with Lynker Technologies and Zac Forsman from the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB).

IntelliReefs’ flagship project in Sint Maarten will also enter Phase 3 this year. With ocean science and outreach partner, Reef Life Foundation, IntelliReefs is forging ahead with analysis and expansion of current restoration efforts in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park off the coast of Philispburg for 2021. They will be returning to the Caribbean with research, technology, and outreach partners iSENSYS, Absolute Vorticity, and Isla Mar Research Expeditions to conduct high resolution surveys of current and future deployment sites, gather much needed oceanographic data on and around current IntelliReefs, and advance understanding of fish community dynamics at study sites.

IntelliReefs is the world's first science-driven, nanoengineering marine restoration company. We are working to put the world’s best technology underwater to build additional coral reefs that are more resilient in the face of climate change, disease, and ocean degradation. We manufacture from the nano to industrial scale, customizing our designs to help our clients reach their sustainability goals.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Follow IntelliReefs online:

Instagram: @intellireefs

Facebook: @IntelliReefs.Sustainable.Marine.Solutions

Additional Links for Media:

High resolution photos are available upon request.

About IntelliReefs:

IntelliReefs are innovative reef restoration systems; the result of breakthroughs in science and nanotechnology, these engineered structures mimic established coral reefs to build an oceanic infrastructure that improves resistance to climate stressors and diseases.

IntelliReefs is a division of Reef Life Restoration, LLC with 20 years of earned experience in advanced materials, manufacturing methods and delivering custom projects, using scientific research, and architectural innovation to offer high performance marine restoration systems designed from nano to industrial scale.

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12 oct. 2022

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