Nova University's Oceanographic
Center aims to create nests for baby coral
a.m. Nov. 18, 2000
DANIA BEACH -- The tugboat looked too small
to pull the lengthy barge dotted with concrete bubbles that would
make up an artificial reef a few miles from the
But it cut through the turquoise
seas with ease, steering the large vessel to the drop-off point.
Scientists hope the 160 4-by-3-foot spheres on
board the barge will buttress a gutted reef off John U. Lloyd State
Recreation Area and provide a habitat for thousands of species of
sea life. They were displaced when the USS Memphis attack
submarine ran aground seven years ago, destroying the ancient
The project, undertaken by Nova
Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center just a few miles from
its Coral Reef Institute, is being funded with $750,000 from the
With that money, man is
attempting to replace what man has destroyed: hundreds of yards of
On Feb. 25, 1993, the wayward
sub cut two long trenches through reefs said to be thousands of
years old, leaving columns of debris where coral once lived. Navy
officials said the accident was due to poor training. It can take up
to 50 years for a reef to fully recover.
are doing this research project to see if we can accelerate the
recovery of the damage reefs. We are looking at ways of attracting
baby coral," said Ken Banks, manager of Broward County's marine
resources division. Coral is a hardened, living byproduct secreted
by certain marine life.
"It's like fertilizing
before you plant a tree," Banks explained. He said attractants like
iron, algae and coral transplants will encourage larvae to
settlement plates that will be attached to the balls. Scientists say
coralline algae and iron may attract baby coral.
The repair mission is something more for the
Oceanographic Center. Richard Spieler, a professor there, says the
institute also is studying what attracts coral and what makes it
grow, move and die.
"By using reef balls, we
can put different materials in them so we can get different fish
populations, and see how different assemblages interact with coral,"
It will take the next couple of
days to lower the 1,600-pound balls, made by Nova students, and
three years of monitoring by trained divers to study the balls,
assembled in four pods and resting 100 feet apart. The project is
about 700 yards long by 300 yards wide.
reefs worldwide are being corrupted by pollutants or destroyed by
vessels running aground.
In just the last 40
years, 30 percent of the planet's coral reefs have been removed by
man's activities, according to Todd Barber, president and CEO of the
Reef Ball Development Group and Foundation.
the Philippines, 63,000 of these reef balls have been planted
because fishermen there throw explosives into the water to fish,
destroying the reef, Barber said.
up with the idea of the balls after his favorite reef on the Cayman
Islands was destroyed in a hurricane. His foundation supports 2,000
reef repair projects in 30 countries.
watched it every year, and came up with the reef ball because I got
tired of trash and tires making up the reef. It was ugly -- a
disguised waste-management program," he said.
The balls come in eight different sizes. The ones used Friday have
18 holes. They are made of pH neutralized concrete. Generally,
different sized balls are used to mimic a reef; but at John U.
Lloyd, all the balls are the same size, which is considered better
for scientific study.
settlement money is insufficient to pay for a traditional
restoration, so to stabilize and prevent further damage to the reef,
the county is adding limestone boulders and other materials to
create a new home for fish, aiding the ball reef
The challenge in dealing with
Broward's reefs is that coral does not thrive here as well as it
does in the Keys. Broward's reefs are very sensitive, between 3,000
to 10,000 years old, and covered with stony corals, small star
corals and brain corals.
Barber describes the
project as medium-sized. The balls generally cost $180 each, but
these were about a third of the price because his foundation donated
the materials to Nova students.
All the coral
reefs in the world are equal in size to the state of South Carolina,
said Barber. "It is the second most diverse ecosystem on the planet.
The rainforest is first."
Toni Marshall can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or