Restoring Coral Reef Biodiversity
IntelliReefs structures in Sint Maarten had nearly 100% coverage of biological organisms after just 14 months (November 2018-January 2020). We also found that IntelliReefs can foster more biodiversity than nearby natural reefs.
Phase 1 consisted of deploying the first IntelliReefs prototypes in three different sites off Cole Bay, Sint Maarten. Reef Life Foundation, along with scientists, filmmakers, photographers, ocean artists, and leaders from the eco-tourism industry assisted the Nature Foundation St. Maarten with its mission to restore the island’s coral reefs.
Phase 2 objectives included documenting and analyzing the success of the IntelliReefs structures in fostering biodiversity and functioning as a substrate for coral recruits. Oceanite substrates provide an incredible amount of surface area for a diversity of life to settle, and we found that all IntelliReefs deployed supported an increased cover of calcareous species such as crustose coralline algae (CCA) and brooding corals. One of the most important findings was that the IntelliReefs deployed in the Sint Maarten MPA supported almost 100% cover of plant and animal species on all substrates, which was significantly higher than the nearby natural reef.
Phase in progress
The next phase will incorporate research on both the material science and additional biological benefits of Oceanite. Reef Life Foundation's goal is to support restoration and MPAs through an additional large scale project in Sint Maarten. The initial deployment will involve an ocean creature dive attraction (>30 meters in diameter) within the MPA made from a combination of the IntelliReefs Oceanite mixtures and custom sculpture fabrication. This will provide economic and environmental benefits to the area.
Phase in progress
An important outcome from Phase 3 is an eco-tourism business model that supports MPAs and invites local tourism operators, resorts, and NGOs to invest and participate in building a world-class dive and snorkel attraction. This will generate critical revenue for the island and coastal communities, while protecting and enhancing the local marine habitat. When complete, the IntelliReefs dive reefs will enable tourists to participate in our conservation initiative by planting coral fragments grown in nurseries.