Monday, May 27, 2024

US Defense Department Funding Artificial Reefs


The US Defense Department is funding the development of am artificial reef program called “Reefense” to mitigate the impact of big waves hitting military bases.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency published a notice this week announcing that a draft environmental assessment for the Reefense program at Baker Point, Florida is now available for the public to comment on.

According to the notice:

“DARPA proposes to fund the development of bio-hybrid reef structures to help attenuate wave energy and protect United States (U.S.) DoD and coastal infrastructure through the Reefense Program (the Proposed Action). The strategy of DARPA’s Reefense program includes employing recent innovations in materials science, hydrodynamic modeling, and adaptive biology to develop growing structures that are optimized to rapidly implement coastal defenses suited to a changing environment. DARPA’s Reefense program involves the construction of custom wave-attenuating base structures to promote growth of reef-building organisms (e.g., coral or oysters). The reef-building organisms would enable the Reefense structures to naturally self-heal and keep pace with sea level rise over time. Reefense structures would also include components to attract non-reef building organisms necessary to help maintain a healthy, growing reef. Finally, adaptive biology would enable improved resilience against disease and temperature stress for organisms present, to ensure compatibility with a changing environment. As soon as the Reefense structures are deployed, they would immediately attenuate coastal wave energy. As the structures facilitate the growth of the reef-building organisms, they would provide a biological benefit (e.g., habitat for mobile reef species) in just a few months or years that would be equivalent to decades of growth for a similarly-sized naturally-occurring reef.”

When the program was first introduced in 2020, Reefense Program Manager Dr. Lori Adornato said:

“Reefense takes the novel approach of integrating structural engineering, reef health, and adaptive biology to create reef-like ecological systems. These structures will help significantly reduce infrastructure maintenance costs, promote ecosystem health, and strengthen DOD’s ability to maintain its infrastructure and military readiness.”

In June 2022, DARPA selected teams from Rutgers University, the University of Hawaii and the University of Miami to focus on developing artificial reefs for the Gulf Coast, off the coast of Hawaii and reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, respectively.

Check out the draft environmental assessment here.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.