Coral reefs are lifelines of the sea. The role they play in maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem is immeasurable. Above the ocean surface, reefs are also incredible economic boosters, attracting tourists and ocean enthusiasts alike. Unfortunately, these vital coral reefs are threatened across the entire ocean as they face the impacts of overuse, climate change and other factors.
Now, I know what you must be thinking, “I wish we could make more of these wonderful, yet struggling, reefs” Well, turns out we can. Artificial reefs are human-made structures that are meant to resemble the characteristics and mimic benefits of a natural reef. These reefs are made of natural or synthetic materials and are located on the bottom of the sea floor in various locations throughout the ocean.
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Artificial reefs can come in many shapes, sizes and materials (typically limestone, steel or concrete), but one of the most common forms of artificial reef is created by using large, submerged structures like bridges and shipwrecks. In fact, many retired vessels are often submerged specifically to be used as artificial reef structures. Talk about a great way to repurpose old materials!
These human-made reefs have been around for many decades, and scientists and ocean managers continue to learn more about which materials work best and how to create non-toxic environments for reef creatures.
These fascinating reefs provide an abundance of benefits to the ocean and those who depend on its resources, including all of us.
Here are a few reasons why artificial reefs are awesome.
They Help Protect Our Coastlines
To start, one of the major benefits artificial reefs can provide is shoreline protection. Like natural reefs, artificial reefs can protect coastlines from intense ocean storms by acting like barriers to disrupt the impact. Artificial reefs can also provide protection from erosion caused by major storms such as hurricanes and cyclones. These reefs are relied upon throughout many coastal communities to provide protection for the people whose livelihoods depend on the ocean.
They Help Promote Sea Life
The importance of coral reefs is common knowledge amongst ocean lovers. These ecosystems are home to a diverse array of marine creatures including many species that are vital to maintaining ocean health. Similarly, artificial reefs help provide habitat and food to reef organisms in need and thus are extremely helpful in boosting wildlife and ocean well-being. These reefs can attract a plethora of critters including fishes, crabs, sea turtles, corals, sponges, sea stars and other tiny invertebrates that live among the corals. Amazingly, these creatures can create beautiful habitats utilizing the shipwrecks or concrete structures used for artificial reefs.
They Attract Economic Growth
The socio-economic benefits to artificial reefs are also vast. Since these human-made reefs attract such a diverse array of ocean wildlife, coastal communities also see a boost in fisheries and tourism. Visitors enjoy the reefs for a variety of reasons including recreational and commercial fishing. The bright array of coral and wildlife also draws in snorkelers and scuba divers from around the world. In this sense, artificial reefs serve as a positive addition to many coastal communities and the locals who rely on nature tourism.
They Relieve Pressure Off Natural Reefs
Artificial reefs can also act as relievers for natural reefs and help these overused reefs recuperate their resources. Coral reefs, for example, are struggling throughout the ocean due to warming waters and other factors. Shellfish reefs are also threatened as they are often overfished and face the impacts of habitat destruction. Artificial reefs can help lessen the pressure on natural reefs by ensuring divers, fishers and others don’t all pile on to natural reefs.
Protecting reef ecosystems is of incredible importance worldwide. These reefs provide habitats, food and resources to the ocean wildlife that count on them and provide coastal protection and economic benefits to the people who live around them. The ocean is fortunate that artificial reefs are such helpful options to boost ocean life and our lives alike.
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