If you happened to see old cars, army tanks, and personal carriers on the seafloor, your first reaction might be that someone dumped them there—but you would be wrong! These industrial items, along with concrete structures and construction rubble, are strategically placed to help certain aquatic environments thrive. They’re known as artificial reefs, because they serve the same purpose as naturally occurring coral reefs.
Why Artificial Reefs?
When sand and pockets of rock crop up from a continental shelf in the ocean, it forms a coral reef, and reefs are hotspots for marine life, primarily because they provide shelter for sea animals. When reefs do not crop up naturally due to other environmental factors, artificial reefs are the perfect solution for fostering the biodiversity that reefs afford!
Artificial reefs create unique landscapes for marine life in areas of the ocean that would otherwise be bare and would offer little to no protection. Made from concrete structures, industrial scraps, or even construction rubble, artificial reefs save ecosystems that would not be able to thrive otherwise.
The Main Materials in Artificial Reefs
Of all the materials used for artificial reefs, concrete most closely resembles natural reef formations, which is why it is so widely used. Steel is also a great material for the marine structures due to its durability. Using these materials not only benefits the marine populations it supports, using steel and concrete for artificial reefs means that these materials stay out of landfills. It’s a win-win!
The Process: Cleaning and Introducing the Materials
Concrete and steel are not simply dumped into the ocean to create artificial reefs. First, they undergo a deep cleaning and special inspection to make sure that they do not introduce any pollutants into the water. This is a crucial step in the process.
Then, professionals introduce the materials into ecosystems carefully. And not long after, the artificial reefs are covered in sponges, corals, and algae while small sea life, such as shrimp, crabs, and thousands of fish, start to make their new home. The Department of Natural Resources checks on artificial reefs regularly to make sure that they remain healthy and progress well.
The Success of Artificial Reefs
A recent survey found that people fishing on artificial reefs brought in 83 million dollars in revenue for coastal cities. On top of that, artificial reefs are the perfect spot for scuba divers and snorkelers to explore, which means additional revenue!
Not to mention, artificial reefs offer the perfect outlet for sustainable recycling of concrete and steel products.