Biorock(tm) is an active coral restoration technique which actually uses electrical energy to help corals grow faster, and survive better when conditions are not ideal. We first started working with Biorock technology in 2005 when the KTDOC and the Biorock Thailand company built a small pilot project in the area of Shark Bay. We maintained that structure and paid for its upkeep over the next 3 years, and saw how amazing the electrified structure helped to bring back the ecosystem that was lost to bleaching in 1998.
After seeing dramatic improvements in coral health, biodiversity, and fish abundance in the area on and around the Biorock, the Save Koh Tao group and the local community of Dive Schools and businesses decided to construct a larger Biorock that will act to improve the health of our reefs and reduce the damages caused by SCUBA diving on natural areas. In addition to adding more reef area to Koh Tao, this site can be a buoyancy training area, complete with obstacles and teaching aids.
Biorock Technology is the only coral restoration technique that addresses problems of water quality and ocean warming. By using a low voltage electrical current, the Biorock allows corals to grow 4-5 times faster and in a wider range of water conditions.
In 2008, 17 dive schools, including ours, joined together through the Save Koh Tao Community group to raise 1 million Baht to construct and install the Hin Fai Site (meaning ‘electric rock’). Since that time, the NHRCP has been going out to the site every week to transplant coral fragments in need of rehabilitation on the structures, and to take data on the development of the site. We have also been helping to maintain the area, including removing algae and coral predators, fixing mooring lines, and repairing any damage to the site from storms or anchors.
We visit the biorock nearly every week, 10 months a year to both train divers on its applications and use, and also to maintain the structures and monitor the progress of the corals and other marine life at the site. After countless hours of searching the surrounding reefs for small, dying, coral fragments and moving them onto the structures it is really a site to behold. In only the few short years since it was put down in 2009, many large and healthy corals which cover about 30% of the total area. We have seen many unique reef animals there, including an eagle ray, seahorse, octopus, humphead parrotfish, stonefish, barracudas, and more. Looking over the last 5 years of development at the Hin Fai Site, it is amazing what has been accomplished.
Students of our marine conservation program learn about the global problems facing reefs, and how biorock fits into the solution. Next they are taught about ocean chemistry and mineral accretion, and how the bioorck structure works. We then head out to the site to attach corals, preform transect or quadrants surveys, monitor marine life, remove algae, and any other tasks which are needed. By the end of our course, it is our goal that students will have a thorough understanding of the threats caused by climate change and some solutions involving creative restoration means, that they can identify dying or sick coral fragments, and practice the proper way of transplanting corals for restoration purposes.
Now that the patent has expired, there is a renewed sense of hope in using this technology to help manage reefs around the globe.
See some of our student papers on the Hin Fai Biorock Site:
One of our recent interns, Gerrianne, did a study comparing photographs of the Hin Fai biorock corals compared with corals growing on the natural reef or artificial reef structures to compare the skeletal growth rates.