e-book Islands in the Sand: An Introduction to Artificial Reefs in the USA

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Artificial reefs may also serve to improve hydrodynamics for surfing or to control beach erosion. This can be done by sinking oil rigs through the Rigs-to-Reefs program , scuttling ships such as the USS Oriskany , or by deploying rubble, tires, or construction debris. Historic or modern shipwrecks become unintended artificial reefs when preserved on the sea floor. Regardless of construction method, artificial reefs are generally designed to provide hard surfaces to which algae and invertebrates such as barnacles, corals, and oysters attach; the accumulation of attached marine life in turn provides intricate structure and food for assemblages of fish.

Reference Terms. Artificial reefs can be built in a number of different methods. Many reefs are built by deploying existing materials in order to create a reef. Other artificial reefs are purpose built e. Related Stories. For example, the tires that have been dumped in the sea appear to be toxic. Also corrosion is an issue with some type of steel structures.

And the sea gets filled with structures that are slowly deteriorating the water quality. Recently, new specially developed materials are preferred for artificial reefs over recycling old materials. Reasons are that some of the recycled materials had a negative impact on the environment. Environmental laws have become stricter on rules to sink old waste and new special designs appear to have a better effect on the diversity and productivity of a reef. New materials are specifically designed to increase the effectivity of the reefs use. They are mostly made of concrete, steel and geo-textile.

Some examples are given below. Reef balls are concrete structures in the shape of halve a ball with holes. These structures have been placed on the bottom of seas and oceans to create new eco-systems. The concrete shape forms good habitat for plants and coral and the hollow structure provides shelter for fish and mammals. Experience with artificial reef balls in New South Wales, Australia, has shown that after 2 years the richness of the artificial reef exceeded the natural one close to the artificial reef.

This can probably be explained by the increased physical complexity of the reef balls compared to the relatively low profile natural reef. Eco-reefs Eco-reefs are constructions of ceramic. They are designed as a snowflake with multiple branches and therefore increasing suitable hard substrate surface. The structures are smaller covering a surface of approx 1 m 2 and lighter 60 kg compared to the reef balls.

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The structures are anchored in the seabed with a rod and are easy to install. Eco reefs. Geo-textile is used in tubes or containers which are filled with sand. Those tubes can be used as beach strengthening, groynes, berms and also as artificial reefs. These 'soft' structures appear to have environmental and technical advantages over 'hard structures' as rocks. The durability and survivability is high. Although somewhat sensitive for vandalism, the structure itself is very durable.

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Moreover, the flexibility of the materials prevents the negative impact on the sediment dynamics hard structures do have. Monitoring has shown that geo-textile structures form an excellent foundation for a broad diversity of marine species. Furthermore, it is a safe and user-friendly material. Geo-textile structures have been used in a number of artifiical reefs. Best known is the Narrowneck Reef, which will be discussed later.

Bio Rock refers to a method of using steel and electricity to speed up growth of coral reefs. First, you place steel structures on the ocean floor. Through those structures you run electric currents, which crystallize the minerals dissolved in the water on the structure and form limestone.


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This type of limestone is similar to the structures created by coral reefs. Next to this limestone, the electricity also accelerates the growth of coral plants and other shell-bearing organisms. By placing broken pieces of the natural coral onto the construction, a new coral reef can develop fast. The execution of this method is fairly simple and the shape of the construction can be adjusted to the specific needs of that area.

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This mechanism can be used to restore destroyed coral reefs, and next to ecological advantages, the diving industry can also benefit. Moreover, the Bio Rock reefs appeared to increase the resilience of the coral, it recovers easier from damage. Next to beneficially shaping coral reef, the structures provide solid shore protection as well. The open but solid structure is ideal to form a physical wave barrier.

A disadvantage is that you always need a power source. A very new technique in development is 3D printing. However, this is still under construction. Located on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, a surfing reef enhances both coastal defense and surfing qualities. This Narrowneck reef is part of Northern Gold Coast Beach protection strategy which aims at a sustainable long-term coastal management solution.

As the Gold coast experiences high wave energy and heavy sand transport, it is necessary to protect the northern Gold Coast beaches from erosion. Moreover, the Gold coast is considered a popular surf spot, therefore improving the surf quality is seen as a secondary objective. The artificial reef is designed as a flared V-shape and is constructed using more than Geo-textile containers.

The design is created to have two twin reefs with a stream for peddling in between. The geo-textile containers are filled with sand and dropped on the right location by a hopper dredger.


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The main construction took place in , but over the ten years after an extra 50 containers and some minor rearrangement was needed, mostly in response to severe storms. The performance of Narrowneck reef is closely monitored, including the shoreline erosion and accretion trends. In general, the reef has proven to be effective in stabilizing the beach.

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Because of adjusted sediment transport the beach widened. The reef has also proven to be able to resist storms and bad weather. Next to the direct effects, the reef also seems to have a positive indirect effect as it interacts with the surrounding sand bar formations. This interaction creates even more favorable conditions for beach protection and surfing.

The surfing conditions at the Narrowneck site have improved significantly. At first, before settlement of the reef, the reef created some hazardous waves which were very hollow and sucked dry at breakpoint. However, after first settlement the surfing conditions improved, especially when weather conditions are suitable for surfing. However, the reef has not gained a good reputation as a surf spot and is rarely surfed. Reason for this is the location of Narrowneck between some of the world's best surfing breaks, which work in similar conditions as the artificial reef.

Moreover, a media-hype at the start of the project has led to unrealistic expectations that the reef would be surfable all year round and under all circumstances. Next to beach protection and surfing, the reef also became a diverse ecosystem. The geo-textile containers provided an excellent substrate for marine flora and developed a diverse ecosystem.

Initially, only some fishes were expected to settle on the reef, but soon it became clear that a new extensive flora and fauna appeared on the reef. The reef is mainly covered with macro-algae and pelagic fish, but also a wide variety of benthos, fish and other marine fauna are found here. An unexpected result of this is that the reef has become popular with locals for spear- fishing, diving and snorkeling.

The reef relocates fish and increases the productivity of the area. The reef attracts fish and many juvenile species and species are found, that are not observed on nearby natural reefs. Lessons learned The design and construction of this reef show a number of unexpected advantages. The Spiegel Grove is an old US navy ship; this steam turbine-powered ship functioned as a dock landing ship, transporting landing crafts that carried combat troops to shore. During the Cold War, from till , the Spiegel Grove served in several war missions over the world.

After retirement, the ship was stored, till it was decided to sunk the ship and it became the world's largest artificial reef ship of by 26 by 24 meters in It would create an artificial reef that could function as new eco-system and a diving spot. Because of its size, the ship would provide diving experience for multi levels of divers. Before sinking, the ship needed to be cleaned from many loose and toxic materials.

While planning started in , the ship was not sunk until A lot of commotion existed on financial and legal issues and the cleaning procedures. In the ship was finally sunk, although not completely according to plan as the ship sank faster than intended and rolled over.

Purpose of reefs