The world’s coral reefs are disappearing due to many factors such as global warming and accelerated urbanization of coastal areas, which are putting enormous pressure on marine life.
“The rapid decline of coral reefs has increased the need to explore interdisciplinary methods for reef restoration,” says Natalie Levy, PhD. student at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. “Examining how to conserve coral reef biodiversity is a key issue, but there is also an urgent need to invest in technologies that can improve the coral ecosystem and our understanding of the reef environment.”
In an article published in the journal Total Environmental Science, researchers from four of Israel’s leading universities shed light on a three-dimensional printing method they developed to preserve coral reefs. Their innovation is based on the natural structure of coral reefs off the Israeli coastal city of Eilat, but their model is adaptable to other marine environments and can help curb the reef devastation plaguing coral ecosystems around the world. .
The joint research was led by Professor Oren Levy and Ph.D. student Natalie Levy of the Mina and Everard Goodman School of Life Sciences of Bar-Ilan University; Professor Ezri Tarazi and Ph.D. student Ofer Berman of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology; Professor Tali Treibitz and Ph.D. student Matan Yuval from the University of Haifa; and Professor Yossi Loya of Tel Aviv University.
The process begins with the digitization of underwater photographs of coral reefs. From this visual information, a 3D model of the reef is assembled with maximum precision. Thousands of images are photographed and sent to the lab to calculate the complex shape of the reef and how that shape promotes the evolution of reef species diversity.
Next, the researchers use a molecular method of collecting environmental genetic information, which provides precise data on reef organisms. These data are integrated with other parameters and feed a 3D technology algorithm, allowing to build an interactive parametric model of the reef. The model can be designed to precisely fit the designated reef environment.
The final step is the translation and production of a ceramic reef in 3D printing.
Reefs are made of naturally porous ceramic underwater, meeting the most ideal construction and restoration needs of the affected area or for the establishment of a new reef structure as a basis for continued life. “Three-dimensional printing with natural materials facilitates the production of very complex and diverse units, which is not possible with the usual means of mold production,” explains Tarazi.
The process combines 3D scanning algorithms, as well as environmental DNA sampling and a 3D printing algorithm that allows detailed and accurate examination of each reef’s data, as well as adaptation of the printed model to a reef environment. specific. Additionally, the data can be fed back into the algorithm to verify the level of effectiveness and efficiency of the design after its implementation, based on the information collected during the process.
“Existing artificial reefs struggle to replicate the complexity of coral habitats and host reef species that mirror natural environments. We are introducing a new customizable 3D interface to produce scalable structures, using real data collected from ecosystems coral,” says Levy.
Berman adds that “the use of 3D printing allows great freedom of action in algorithm-based solutions, as well as the assimilation of sustainable production for the development of large-scale marine rehabilitation”.
This study meets two crucial needs to save coral reefs, according to the researchers. The first is the need for innovative solutions that facilitate large-scale restoration and that can be scaled to support coral reefs around the world. The second is the recreation of a natural coral reef complexity, both in size and design, which will attract reef species such as fish and invertebrates that support the regrowth of natural coral reefs.
Researchers are currently installing several 3D-printed reefs in the Gulf of Eilat. They believe that the results they will obtain will help them apply this innovation to other reef ecosystems around the world.
Post-3D printing method can curb reef devastation plaguing coral ecosystems appeared first on JNS.org.