*Original Action update on UN platform here.
Achievements at a glance
The Nature Foundation St Maarten partnered with Reef Life Foundation in an effort to find solutions for their vulnerable coral reef ecosystems. In November 2018, we deployed three IntelliReefs structures underwater near Philipsburg, Sint Maarten as part of a pilot study. The structures were deployed on three sites: a coral reef in a marine protected area (MPA), a busy coral reef/seagrass bed through-way, and a highly disturbed and degraded seagrass bed in Cole Bay.
Sint Maartens marine ecosystems have been degraded by overfishing, hurricanes, runoff, and a suite of other compounding natural and anthropogenic stressors over the past five decades. We deployed IntelliReefs, monitored their progress over a 14-month period, analyzed the preliminary results, and are currently preparing a paper for scientific publication in the fall. After conducting fieldwork to assess the efficacy of this pilot project in January 2020, IntelliReefs scientists found that Oceanite can increase local biodiversity, foster wild coral settlement, and accumulate a healthy, early stage coral community in just 14 months.
Challenges faced in implementation (if any)
The major challenges that our team faced for our project in Sint Maarten were related to funding limitations and COVID-19 travel/work restrictions. Our pilot project was small, but requires ongoing monitoring and analysis. We are currently seeking large investments for further deployment within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, but local business and conservation authorities have been severely affected by COVID-19. Our conservation partner, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, generally monitors our structures when the IntelliReefs team is not on the ground, and they have been unable to resume work as normal due to governmental budget cuts in the past 9 months.
We are working to put the best technology underwater to build additional coral reefs that are more resilient to ocean degradation. IntelliReefs is researching and developing products that address disease mitigation, pre-seeding artificial reefs with microfragments for accelerated restoration, and growth-enhancing substrates for coral gardening that are more resilient to storms, bleaching, and acidification. We manufacture from the nano to industrial scale, customizing designs to help clients progress towards SDG14 targets. IntelliReefs was recently recognized internationally, winning a Greening the Islands 2020 award for sustainable tourism.
Beneficiaries & Actions
Who are the beneficiaries?
IntelliReefs directly provide biological benefits for the local reefs in Sint Maarten as well as economic benefits through increases in resources for fisheries and local tourism. We are currently collaborating with conservation organizations, oceanic data collection companies, marine education organizations, and international and domestic researchers. IntelliReefs focuses on reaching clients interested in developing large marine infrastructure.
Our products give US and international tourists an unprecedented underwater experience for eco-resorts and tourism agencies. As a cladding application onto sea walls, jetty installations, or submerged breakwaters, IntelliReefs products bring ecological advantages to modern marine infrastructure with inert materials that facilitate colonization by diverse flora and fauna. Our clients from the conservation community have species- and ecosystem- specific restoration targets, and IntelliReefs can be customized to attain global SDGs.
What specific actions have been taken to positively impact beneficiaries?
The Nature Foundation of Sint Maarten partnered with Reef Life Foundation in an effort to find solutions for their vulnerable coral reef ecosystems. In November 2018, we deployed three IntelliReefs structures underwater near Philipsburg, Sint Maarten as part of a pilot study. IntelliReefs are made from proprietary marine mineral matrices that include high-grade limestone, aragonite, and diverse pozzolanic (calcium binding) components at the nano-scale, developed specifically for diverse animal growth and immediate marine integration. Our research team found that IntelliReefs successfully provided food and shelter for fish populations, attracted wild coral spawn, had rapid growth of a healthy coral reef community, and enhanced local biodiversity.
Understanding and promoting healthy coral reefs for island communities is vital to increase awareness of restoration efforts and integrate local economic entities and anti-poverty groups into landscape management plans and environmental justice initiatives. Improving the health of reefs will improve the livelihoods and health of local populations who rely on reefs for food security, storm protection, and economic stability. We are currently in the early stages of producing an ongoing coral reef online educational outreach curriculum with our Foundation (Reef Life Foundation) that aims to increase awareness and protection of coral reefs, environmental justice for local island populations and developing nations, and improve literacy and ongoing education for women and girls (SDG 5). We plan to work with the educational outreach coordinator at the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten to provide this curriculum for free to local schools.
Reef Life currently has an ongoing fundraising campaign to provide ongoing funds for the project in Sint Maarten and the local Nature Foundations fieldwork and local educational initiatives. Reef Life contributes towards the Hawksbill sea turtle awareness campaign run by the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten for locals and tourists.
All photos except the last provided by the film crew with SeaLegacy. The final photo from Grant Thomas (Coral Reef Image Bank).