Project uses electricity to develop new reefs

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Electricity may be the answer to reviving coral reefs that have become damaged by global warming and destructive fishing methods.

A new project, called "Bio-Rock", involves the construction of large metal structures, through which is passed a low voltage of electricity, as a platform for coral growth.

The project has been running on the Pemuteran reefs, located along the coast of the Indonesian island of Bali. Here, reefs that had been bleached by rising sea temperatures, and damaged by destructive fishing methods involving dynamite and cyanide, are now thriving with corals and fish.

Fourty metal frames, often dome-shaped, have been constructed along the Bali coast. The structures, supplied with electricity from an on-shore source, limestone builds up on the surface, making an attachment site for the corals. Coral frags salvaged from the reef can then be attached.

The project has, though, been met with some reservation. Rod Salm of the Nature Conservancy told the Associated Press that "the extent of bleaching ... is just too big."

He believes that the cost of constructing the metal frames is too high, and that this will prove to be prohibitive in using the method to revive coral reefs on a larger scale.

Thomas Goreau, who pioneered the project with architect Wolf Hilbertz, concedes that funding has been a problem. However, says that traditional methods of reviving these reefs have failed, and that theirs "is the only one that speeds coral growth."

It has been noted that it is mainly traditional energy sources being used to provide the electricity for the Bio-Rock project, which will contribute to global warming.

Bali resident Kadek Darma told the Associated Press that the reefs were important because "they attract the tourists, and more tourists means more jobs."