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Artificial Concrete Reefs: How Concrete Can Benefit Nature

Concrete is great for building homes for people, but did you know it’s also great for building homes for sea creatures? Believe it or not, concrete is the favourite material of conservationists and reef managers who make artificial reefs. These reefs are built to help reintroduce species to shallow ocean environments and help the rebuilding of habitats. It’s just one of the ways concrete can be used to benefit nature!

What Are Artificial Concrete Reefs?

concrete reef image, shoreline structureAn artificial reef is a structure built to provide a stable platform for corals, allowing them to grow and turn shallow ocean areas into suitable habitats for tropical fish, crustaceans, and other forms of ocean life. Sometimes made from old ships, artificial reefs give a starting point for coral systems to regrow after habitat destruction, an increasingly common state despite all the efforts to protect these sensitive ecosystems.

Corals need this base to get the reef restarted because they are living, eating, reproducing ocean “skyscrapers”. While they kind of look like concrete themselves, corals are actually the structures built by colonies of tiny marine invertebrates. These creatures secrete calcium carbonate to form giant “skeletons” that form the basis for the reef structures.

Unfortunately, because of human activity like dynamite fishing, mining, and scuba diving, many reefs around the world have been destroyed, and the polyp-like creatures that makeup coral do not have firm bases on which to form their colonies. This is why artificial reefs are necessary, and many groups have landed on concrete as the best building material to make these structures!

Why Is Concrete The Best Material For Artificial Reefs?

One reason concrete is the best material for artificial reefs is because of how versatile it is. Concrete is strong, cheap, non-toxic to the water, and readily available to chipped and broken concretecountries and conservation groups around the world. It also lasts an incredibly long time in the ocean, standing up to the punishment like nothing else. It can be shaped in any way, allowing conservationists to create an environment that works with the natural reef structure.

But the chief reason concrete is the material of choice is that it is actually very close to natural coral limestone that forms the basis of reefs. The limestone that helps make up cement, one of the ingredients for concrete, makes the material a great starter home for coral polyps. While there was some debate to putting this building material under the sea, corals have been shown to thrive on artificial reef structures made from concrete!

How Concrete Can Benefit Nature

Concrete can help the balance between structure and nature in many ways, making it an eco-friendly building material. It comes down to its simplicity: concrete is water, gravel, sand, and cement, making the majority of the ingredients that go into it all natural. When it’s fresh, unused concrete can easily be recycled, meaning there’s very little waste going into making it.

Light-coloured concrete also has a higher albedo, or the ability to reflect solar radiation. When used strategically, it can reduce the heat in urban settings (cities are often hotter due to something called the heat island effect) and decrease energy costs. Contact us to learn more!

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