3D coral? Warmer waters and warmer temperatures are slowly coming to a boiling point for coral reefs around the world. This bleaching event is robbing the reefs of life and color. The slow destruction of coral reefs in every tropical ocean is taking its toll on marine life and the oceans themselves. Much needed oxygen is lost with every piece of reef that dies. So what can be done to save coral reefs at this point? That is the ultimate question, and there may be an ultimate answer.
3D Printing Coral
Who would have guessed when printers were invented that we would one day be using a 3D printer to make new coral reefs? I would make a good bet that the answer is no one. Technology has given us a lot of new options for a lot of different problems that arise in life, but this really is thinking out of the box.
How in the world does a 3D printer make something that can survive underwater, though? Well for one, it is not paper. That should’ve been obvious from the start, but it is still hard to wrap your head around. When we think of something being printed, we think it is being printed on a piece of a paper. This is not the case with most things that are 3D printed.
These printed reefs are being made out of material that is extremely similar to actual reefs and are even being colored like actual reefs. Why bother coloring them similarly if the ocean is just going to do that anyways, though? The reason is that the microscopic life forms that actually give the reef life prefer certain colors over other ones. No, they can not see, but they do prefer colors that the sun reflects off of the right way.
Giving these new 3D printed coral reefs the illusion of life is actually helping create more life. As odd as that sounds, it is working. Not a moment too soon either, because the extent of the disaster happening on the high seas could change the entire world. That may sound crazy to some, but in reality, it is a real possibility.
The Loss Of Coral Reefs
Aside from the fish that have nowhere to live, there are many side effects to the slow destruction of coral reefs by warmer waters, and higher temperatures. A great many species of fish rely on these reefs; from the species that live in them, to the species that eat what lives in the reef. An entire ecosystem can fall overnight, leaving a massive hole that can never be filled on Earth. A large part of our oceans could literally end up a dead zone due to this. You were probably thinking about how bad that would affect the fishing industry, and other commerce industries, but it goes far beyond just issues of money.
You see the oceans give off a great deal of oxygen, very similar to how trees do. Kelp, seaweed, and other oceanic plants produce this oxygen, and it is vital to the survival of our planet. That may sound a little extreme to some, but it could not be truer. We all need to breathe oxygen to live, and that is only part of what I am referring too. The other part is the atmosphere and the ozone layer. A lack of oxygen and a surplus of other gasses in the air could spell disaster for everyone. The Earth could heat up to levels we could not survive in, or cool down to temperatures that cause another ice age.
So How Are These New Reefs Being Implemented?
Well, they are made, and brought out by boat to the locations that need them most, but scientists are hoping to use them in more locations as time progresses. We know from other artificial reefs we’ve made that it takes time for a true coral reef to form. Old boats and ships have been sunk in the past to create such reefs. We’ve also used pylons and other pieces of old bridges and structures to make artificial coral reefs.
This is certainly not a new practice, except now we are using 3D printers to make the reefs more lifelike, to begin with. As I said before, though, this is not just for show. These tactics are making it more easily adaptable to fish and the smaller organisms that make it a true coral reef. The 3D printed final products are also placed in specific spots that are where they need to be in the water, but are not likely to be destroyed by anything less than a natural disaster.
These artificial reefs are colored in white and pink, which are the colors I mentioned earlier that make the reef more adaptable. This hard coral imitation might just save the world, but at the very least it will save the ocean and many different species of marine life.
Everyone Has To Do Their Part
Of course, if you have the technology and ability to do this; there is nothing stopping you from getting in on it. Everyone has to help in a couple of ways. The biggest is and has always been that we need to reduce our carbon footprints. The problem now is that a gentle ease on carbon pollution will not save the slowly dying coral reefs. Reducing it enough to save them now is not really probable anymore. So the best we can do is to continue to reduce it, and implement new coral reefs like these. Of course not destroying the new artificial reefs; and existing ones is also an important part that we all can play.