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3D-Printed Reefs Offer Hope in Coral Bleaching Crisis

March 31, 2017

3D-Printed Reefs Offer Hope in Coral Bleaching Crisis

Interesting work being done with 3D-printing technology to create fake reefs in hopes to slow damage to our oceans coral reefs. 

Success could be apparent in upcoming years if fish and baby coral polyp can grow and attach themselves and reestablish life in the 'reef'. 

By Laura Parker on nationalgeographic.com

The news on coral reefs alternates between doom and hope. Reefs are among the most fragile ecosystems on the planet and essential to marine life. They are also highly sensitive to climate change and are dying at a dramatic rate.

By the century’s end, virtually every reef in the ocean will suffer annual life-threatening bleaching events, according to a report published earlier this year in Nature’s Scientific Reports. Australian scientists who surveyed the Great Barrier Reef last month now say the world’s largest coral reef system, which lost about a fourth of its coral last year in its worst-ever bleaching event, faces another bleaching problem this year that could be even worse. A paper published Thursday on the cover of Nature confirmed those fears by documenting hundreds of miles of bleached Australian reef, a consequence of warmer water.

But—and here’s the hope—fake reefs may be less vulnerable to climate change and more durable in the changing ocean chemistry than natural reefs. Scientists are using 3D-printing technology that enables them to create fake reefs mimicking the texture and architectural structure of natural reefs in ways that haven’t been achieved in prior restoration efforts.

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