“Reef Balls” Help Rehabilitate Marine Habitat Hollow concrete balls create the habitat on which coral will cling and grow

WASHINGTON – We humans are unfortunately very good at damaging or destroying the world in which we live. Delicate and complex ecosystem that nature built over millennia can be compromised in almost no time by careless human activities.

Recreating coral reefs

Coral reefs are among the victims. However, here human ingenuity may help repair the damages caused by human carelessness or utter stupidity.

As we know, there have been many attempts to create a habitat for coral and other marine life, mostly by throwing into the oceans all sorts of discarded man-made objects.

“Reef Balls”

But now we have something better. Not long ago, I watched an interesting TV program illustrating the activities of the Reef Ball Foundation, located in Athens, Georgia, (www.reefball.org). As the name indicates, their work is all about man-made “balls” to be deployed on the sea floor, so that they will help nature in recreating a normal reef. These “balls”, (in fact, half balls), are simple and yet very ingenious objects that provide a modular solution to the problem of dead or severely damaged reefs.

Someone came up with an easy to make, extremely durable concrete structure –guaranteed to last 500 years– that looks indeed like a hollow ball, except that it is more like a half ball, so that its large base will allow it to rest on the sea floor. The clever feature is that this structure has several large holes, so that water, nutrients and fish can flow through it, while coral and plants little by little will cling on its corrugated, uneven surface.

A new reef in just 3 to 5 years

Well, the evidence shows that coral can easily attach itself to this man-made structure. Amazingly, in just a few years (3 to 5) an almost complete replica of a natural reef is created. You can place as many “reef balls” as you want on the sea floor. Soon enough they will “come to life”, playing host to coral, algae and fish.

The added bonus is that these reef ball are easy to make. The molds can be shipped close to the deployment area, near the water. Making the reef balls “on site” is a good way to reduce all the complex logistics of making the balls in one place, shipping them probably far away, and all the associated transportation costs.

Easy to deploy

Once the balls are ready, inflatable balloons are placed inside the hollow structures so that they can easily float until they reach the designated deployment area. At that point, with the help of divers, the balls are guided down, as the balloons are deflated.

Once the reef balls reach the bottom, that’s it. They are designed to stay there. They are heavy and stable, and so they will not be moved by currents or other forces. The holes will allow water to go through them. Their hollow interior will become a habitat for fish and other creatures.

A new reef

Over a relatively short period of time, the reef balls will become the home of new coral and plant life. This almost natural habitat will allow the replenishment of various species, contributing to the healing of many parts of our damaged Oceans.

This may not be perfect. Nothing beats mother nature’s physiological ways to create and self-perpetuate its own eco-systems. But, as far as man-made remedies go, this is pretty good.

More than 62 countries have reef balls

Reef balls have already been placed in more than 62 countries. Let’s hope that more and more people and organizations around the world will become aware of this ingenious way to recreate reefs.

Reef balls are cost-effective and easily deployable. And, just as intended, they create a new habitat for marine life.


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