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ReefGuard: Van Oord’s Coral Regeneration Initiative

ReefGuard: Van Oord’s Coral Regeneration Initiative


The aim of Van Oord’s Coral Regeneration Initiative is to provide solutions for coral rehabilitation and establishment. The ReefGuard was constructed as part of this initiative and is a state-of-the-art mobile aquaculture laboratory. The ReefGuard facility can be seen as the production facility which sources a final end product, Coral Engine, which incorporates these fresh 'recruits' together with large fragments. The Coral Engine then functions as a continuous source of genetically diverse coral, ready to be planted out in new areas or sites that are in need of rehabilitation.

Full moon

Coral typically spawns once per year. For most reef-building species, this typically occurs a number of days after the full moon of the warmest month of the year. During that period, there is a single moment when all coral releases gamete bundles containing eggs and sperm into the sea, i.e. 'coral spawning'. We make use of this natural spawning process to produce and cultivate coral larvae and finally ensure that they attach themselves to an artificial substrate. The substrates are then returned to an outplacement site for further development.

Underwater nursery

The Coral Engine is an underwater nursery which consists of coral recruits as well as locally sourced coral fragments. Its purpose, and that of its sourcing facility ReefGuard, is to give coral reefs a helping hand in areas where the conditions for coral growth are favourable but the supply of new coral larvae is limited, or larvae experience difficulty in surviving the initial phases of settlement. These issues include climate change-induced triggers such as heat stress which result in coral bleaching as well as human and industrial activities. The ReefGuard has been used in a total of five projects based in the Bahamas and Australia.

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RECRUIT: Upscaling Coral Rehabilitation

In 2018, a consortium made up of Van Oord, CSIRO, and Delft University of Technology won a subsidy from the government of Queensland (Australia) intended to further upscale current coral rehabilitation methods. The aim of the project was to attempt to harvest floating 'coral slicks' after a spawning event by means of hydraulic pumping and to investigate their survival in different types of on-board tank. The project was successful in its goal of collecting living coral slicks using pump configurations specially adapted for the project. The tanks and pumps proved to be an effective means for collecting coral slicks whilst simultaneously ensuring their survival as they reach the stage at which they settle. This proof of concept is a milestone towards coral rehabilitation.

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Want to stay in touch?

We are always on the lookout for new collaborations and practical know-how as to how we can improve our innovations. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Remment ter Hofstede, Engineering Specialist at Van Oord.

Related U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

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