A set of bright pink marker buoys off the Gili Islands in Northwest Lombok marks the location of a dynamic and innovative program that promises new life to world's threatened coral reefs.
Co-conceived by coral expert Tom Goreau and architect Wolf Hilbertz, Bio Rock, or Electric Reef installations, have proven successful in creating new coral reef habitat, not only in Indonesia, but in numerous locations around the region.
At the invitation of long-time Bali resident Cody Schwaiko, and Bali Hai Diving Adventures - Tom Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz recently visited Gili Trawangan to assess the area's suitability for a trial installation. After receiving the initial "thumbs up" and funding from the Vila Ombak Diving Academy together with other local community support, the Gili's first Bio Rock installation was "plugged in" on November 20, 2004.
Coral Arks and Bio Rocks
Known in some circles as "Coral Arks" because of their proven ability to create new havens for fish and corals in areas where human impact has damaged coral reef habitat, the new artificial reef on Gili Trawangan was constructed using steel bars and copper wiring to produce a tunnel-like steel foundation. Electrodes are attached to transmit low-voltage electrical current into the seawater surrounding the steel structure. Driven by an onshore power source or solar panel, the voltage employed is equivalent to that of a 60-100 watt light bulb.
How Does it Work?
In combination with an anode and cathode, the electric current causes dissolved minerals in sea water to crystallize, forming a limestone coating over the exposed steel, a perfect media for coral larvae – the basic building block of the reef. To further accelerate reef establishment and in a process know as "seeding," the Vila Ombak Diving Academy Team collected live coral fragments already detached from surrounding healthy reefs, and physically attached them to the structure.
The results of this innovative approach to creating new coral reefs has been, both literally and figuratively, electrifying. Studies show resulting reef growth rates that are three to five times that of un-stimulated coral. Other studies indicate stimulated coral may also be more tolerant to changes in surrounding water temperature.
Local Community Support Essential
Local community support is considered essential to the success of any environmental initiative. The Gili Island Bio Rock Project draws much of its inspiration from the village head on Gil Trawangan, Taufik, who is an avid SCUBA diver. Taufik's commitment to project, his socialization of the project to his local constituents and the services of a local marine patrol funded by the Gili Eco Trust are all playing key roles in the ongoing success of the project.
On November 23, 2004, the Vila Ombak Diving Team lowered the first completed structure carefully into place. Taufik, in his capacity as village leader, was given the honor of becoming the first diver to seed the structure with a coral fragment.
Within just 16 hours of the introduction of electricity there was a visible white film already forming on the exposed steel. Resembling an underwater Christmas tree adorned with carefully attached coral decorations, Moorish idols and Damsel Fish were already winding their way in and out of the structure. A fantastic green and yellow miamiridae nudibranch had also moved in, declaring the structure its new home.
As a finishing touch, Taufik painted the succinct message on the surface marker buoys saying "Keep and Protect this Place" and the installation was complete.
If you’d like to learn more about the Vila Ombak Diving Academy's Coral Reef Education Program or about the Bio Rock project, follow the e-mail link provided.
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