The first piece of a series of concrete structures was lowered into the water off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida last week.
The structures were lifted off a floating barge onto the seafloor, 14 feet (4.27m) below the surface.
A team of researchers and scientists from the University of Miami sank 27 of the interlocking concrete structures that will form two hybrid reef units 1,000 feet (305m) offshore of North Beach Oceanside Park, at the northern edge of Miami Beach.
The units are the centerpiece of a project called Engineering Coastal Resilience Through Hybrid Reef Restoration, or ECoREEF, which combines cement- and nature-based strategies to foster coastal resilience. Supported by the University’s Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK) and the City of Miami Beach, the project was developed at a time when coral reefs have been struggling to survive.
A recent study indicates that half of the world’s living coral reefs have died since the 1950s.
Meanwhile, other research has shown that healthy and complex coral reefs are able to buffer up to 97 percent of the energy from waves and can also reduce flooding frequency.
According to ECoREEF lead investigator Diego Lirman, an associate professor of marine biology and ecology at the University’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science:
“Coral reefs are disappearing at alarming rates throughout the world as a result of disease and warming oceans, so our reefs have lost a lot of the structure they need to reduce wave energy. By placing these [hybrid] reefs near the shoreline and planting stress-tolerant corals on them, we hope to recover some of the lost services provided by healthy reefs, such as coastal protection, and to build a habitat for organisms like fish and lobsters.”