NEWS 2020-05-01

Funding to build artificial reefs

In a new project artificial coral reefs will be developed with the help of novel technology to restore biodiversity, build fisheries and improve human health.

Divers from NGO Reef Doctor building artificial reef structure in Madagascar. Photo: Reef Doctor

Healthy coral reefs threatened world wide

The global loss of coral reefs threatens human lives because these ecosystems provide food, income, and shoreline protection. The decline of reefs and rise in poverty is particularly acute in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the World Bank. This project aims to increase coral reef ecosystem extent in Ranobe Bay, Madagascar, to increase fisheries landings and improve the health and well-being of coastal communities, as well as build marine science and conservation capacity in Madagascar. It will also investigate the potential for sustainable marine aquaculture alongside existing wild capture fisheries from reef ecosystems.

Healthy reef ecosystems require many species to function efficiently, to carry out critical ecosystem services and to support fish production. Most of these vital supportive species (e.g., sponges, bacteria) are challenging to collect and move.

Experimenting with novel technology

The project will use novel technology where a cage like structure (abbreviated ARMS) will first be placed on a natural healthy reef to be colonised or ”seeded” and then moved to artificial reef structures composed of locally sourced limestone boulders and concrete tubes. Limestone is ideal for artificial reef work as it mimic natural reef systems and is the perfect material to encourage reef organism settlement.

The experiment will allow researchers to empirically test whether seeding artificial reefs with ARMS technology increases biodiversity and biomass, fish abundances, fisheries landings, human dietary diversity, human consumption of seafood, and reduces the incidence of stunting and wasting.

Aiming for local and global outcomes

Beijer researcher Max Troell is a project partner together with partners at Harvard University, IRD in France, the local University of Toliara and Madagascar based restoration NGO Reef Doctor.

Max Troell will be involved in general feasibility studies of the ARMS methodology, but his main contribution will be related to how local fish resources generated will contribute to nutrition and wellbeing of involved coastal communities.

Apart from supporting ecosystems and local communities in Madagascar, the researchers hope to create a data collection protocol that can be applied anywhere to measure the effects of marine restoration efforts in environmental and social systems. They will also try to identify how coastal marine aquaculture can be sustainably integrated with coral reef ecosystems and wild capture fisheries.