Video: Biorock project yielding results 

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • Pollution significantly reduced critically endangered coral population
  • Biorock pilot project off Gouyave and in L’Esterre Carriacou
  • 1,800 to 3,000 coral fragments on Biorock structures by 2019

Two critically endangered species of coral, the Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) will be among the varieties grown through the Biorock pilot project deployed off the coast of Gouyave and on Paradise Beach in L’Esterre Carriacou.

Populations of Elkhorn and Staghorn corals perform an important ecological function in shallow Caribbean reefs which pollution has significantly reduced. The Biorock Pilot Project promises to breathe new life into these critically endangered corals. The project is spearheaded by Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA) through the 5Cs Project in collaboration with the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society.

In June, the first set of structures were deployed in Gouyave with the assistance of Thomas Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA), who explained that the Biorock uses low voltage electricity channelled through a conducive steel frame anchored to the seabed. The electrolytic reaction results in mineral crystals such as calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide found in seawater to grow on the structure which provides a perfect breeding ground for new coral formation.

As part of their duties, the team assists in the collection of coral fragments to be attached to the Biorock structures as well as cleaning of these structures to remove algae.

National Coral Nursery Coordinator, Denzel Adams, is part of a team comprising mostly volunteers and representative of Grenada Coral Reef Foundation and Fisheries division that monitor the growth of corals and maintain the structures to ensure the success of the project. Adams said tremendous growth had been noticed in all of the coral planted on the structures. “The Biorock structures in both Gouyave and Carriacou have been doing amazingly well since we have deployed them, we have seen the growth in all the coral species that we have on the structures. The structures have created a fair amount of Calcium carbonate and the project on the whole is doing very well.”

He said, “By 2019 we should have at least between 1,800 and about 2,500 to 3,000 coral fragments growing on these Biorock structures which will be used to seed conventional nurseries which are still very important to coral reef restoration and will also be used to be out-planted onto coral reefs and seed other Biorock structures as we expand the Biorock projects that we have in Grenada.”

Adams explained the advantages of using the Biorock technology pioneered by German-born architect Wolf Hilbertz, versus conventional methods. “Biorock is an innovation, and it’s basically one of the ways we are using technology in conservation, which is very creative and innovative, and it has a large prospect of us using the technology not just for artificial reef restoration, but for coral propagation we can manipulate book in many ways. We can use Biorock to grow coral at a faster rate and outplant a lot more fragmentation of coral onto the reef in a short space of time that we possibly could with convention coral nursery.”

Over 12 different species of coral are being grown on the Biorock structures including Porites porites, Meandrina meandrites, Madracis Auretenra, Pseudodiploria strigosa, and Clivosa. In Gouyave a group of coral gardener volunteers are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the structures, while the structures in Carriacou are monitored by the Marine Protected Area (MPA) wardens of Sandy Island/Oyster Bed protected areas.

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