science, art, & education

Solving the climate and biodiversity crisis is one of biggest and most urgent challenges of our times.
We help coral reefs survive until we get there.

The International Coral Reef Society states “The coming year and decade likely offer the last chance for international, regional, national, and local entities to change the trajectory of coral reefs from heading towards world-wide collapse to h...
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our approach

The International Coral Reef Society states “The coming year and decade likely offer the last chance for international, regional, national, and local entities to change the trajectory of coral reefs from heading towards world-wide collapse to heading towards slow but steady recovery”.

We rebuild coral reef structure to regenerate reef life and restore coastal protection capacity.

Our reefs are eco-engineered to promote the settlement and growth of young coral and increase diversity and abundance of fish and other marine organisms. Our aim is that our structures develop into self-sustaining reefs over the years, bringing back abundant marine life, protecting coastlines from erosion and flooding, and increasing the resilience of coastal communities.

The lego-like architecture of our system allows for customized reef shapes that fit into the local environment, creates habitat diversity, and diverts currents. The surface structure of each brick helps coral larvae settle and grow by interacting with water flows to transport the tiny larvae towards the substrate. It then provides them with sheltered spaces with sufficient light and protection from predators and sand settlement. The hollow bricks provide excellent habitat for smaller and juvenile fish, crustaceans, sea urchins, nudibranchs, and many other critters that find shelter in reefs.

our three pillars

science
We want our reef system to become better and better. That is why we do not just build rrreefs, but accompany every implemented project with scientific investigations and a thorough monitoring program.
For examp...

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science
We want our reef system to become better and better. That is why we do not just build rrreefs, but accompany every implemented project with scientific investigations and a thorough monitoring program.
For example, we test how well young corals survive on different surface patterns on our reef modules, or which aspects of our reef are particularly beneficial for fish and other reef organisms.
We also investigate how we can use surface and reef geometry, and material composition to lower the growth of certain algae that compete with coral. We combine field experiments and controlled laboratory experiments with computer flow simulations and regularly incorporate the latest coral reef research by the scientific community into our work.
All these insights help us to iteratively make our reef system better.

art
We believe in art as a catalyst for individual action and societal change. Artifacts, whether they relate to art, design, or architecture, serve as anchor points for communication and behavior to people from diverse cult...

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art
We believe in art as a catalyst for individual action and societal change. Artifacts, whether they relate to art, design, or architecture, serve as anchor points for communication and behavior to people from diverse cultures.
We work visible to the public through exhibitions, raise awareness of the importance of coral reefs, and showcase the symbiotic relationship between art and the natural sciences. Moreover, we allow people to experience our work hands-on in its conceptual stage – as a piece of art inspired by nature.
The aesthetic qualities of our system (like the multi-level complexity of the design or the warm color of the clay) not only make it attractive to corals and other marine organisms, but they also turn our rrreefs into living pieces of underwater art to be experienced by divers and snorkelers, with the potential to lower the touristic pressure on natural reefs.

education
Education on the topic of coral reef loss, its connection to climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution, and possible solutions to tackle the current environmental crisis is crucial for broadening our...

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education
Education on the topic of coral reef loss, its connection to climate change, environmental degradation, and pollution, and possible solutions to tackle the current environmental crisis is crucial for broadening our impact.
That is why we organize reef-building workshops together with local partner organizations for local and international workshop participants, ensuring an effective knowledge and skills transfer.
We also carry out educational programs, give scientific or inspirational talks, and gear our media presence towards educational content. To reach as many people as possible and build a community of environmentally conscious supporters, we tackle multiple channels, like TV, radio, print media, and social media.
The final aim is to encourage re-thinking and behavioral change among citizens, consumers, private actors, and political decision-makers.

rrreefs is a top tier project on one of the most important environmental issues of our time.

Prof. Roman Stocker, ETH Zürich

3D printing and distributed production

The use of 3D printing to produce our rrreef bricks allows us to create complexity at different scales to meet the needs of a coral reef ecosystem. Intricate geometries and roughness at the micro scale of the bricks promote the settlement of coral larvae and a diverse benthic community, while a multitude of cavities and crevices at the different scales create diverse habitats for other marine species. Earthenware, especially burnt clay, provides an ideal substrate for corals to attach to and grow, given its porous texture and alkalinity. Moreover, the combined use of 3D printing and the natural material allows us to produce locally with local resources, cutting CO2 emissions and creating new jobs in ecosystem restoration. All it needs to incorporate the latest scientific insights into ongoing projects is to update our open source code – the beauty of digital manufacturing.

Why do we need to rebuild coral reefs?!

coral reefs

are home to 25% of all marine life

Coral reefs sustain a quarter of all animal species in the ocean. This hotspot of global biodiversity is tightly entangled with other ecosystems, influencing the wellbeing of the entire ocean and humans alike.

support the human livelihood

More than half a billion people directly depend on coral reefs as a source of their culture and beliefs, and a source of food and income through tourism, recreation, and fisheries.

are valuable resources

Many important medicines are derived from substances originally discovered in coral reefs. And new active ingredients for medicines are still being discovered in coral reefs, making them an important and indispensable resource in pharmaceutical research.

protect coastlines

Coral reefs function as valuable protective barriers for coastal communities. By dissipating up to 97% of wave energy before it reaches the shoreline, they protect human-made and natural values along the coast.

Read more on National Geographic or NOAA.

the threats

the global and local stress factors

Coral reefs are dying worldwide due to climate change, pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices like dynamite fishing and bottom trawling, careless tourism, coral mining, and further stressors. While most of these are local threats that can and should be relieved locally, climate change and overfishing of the entire ocean are global threats, and only globally concerted action will give coral reefs a chance to survive.

Without rapid and effective action, up to 95% of the world’s corals are expected to be dead by 2050, leaving 70000 km of tropical coastline vulnerable to erosion and destruction. Importantly, without action to halt and reverse climate change, no existing approach to help coral reefs will be successful in the long term.

the three pillars of action by ICRS

To counteract global and local stress factors the International Coral Reef Society recommends three interdependent pillars of action:

• Reduce global climate threats by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration, preferably through nature-based solutions.
• Improve local conditions by increasing protection and improving management for coral reef resilience.
• Invest in restoration science and active coral reef restoration to enhance recovery and adaptation rates, maintain or restore biodiversity, and explore
new restoration technologies.

With our solution we work on the second and mainly on the third pillar by providing now complex habitat for coral larval to settle and grow and reef animals to life in.

Find out why structural complexity is thous important in the next section!

the loss of structural complexity

When corals die, the underlying reef structure loses its complexity – with direct consequences for the oceans, the planet, and human populations. A multitude of coral reef organisms lose their habitat and biodiversity drops. Since coral offspring need intricate reef structure to settle and grow, and important algae-eating fish need a certain structural complexity to live, reef recovery becomes unlikely or takes very long.

At large, this process puts the entire balance of the ocean at risk. Fisheries, tourism, and recreational value decline, and coastal areas lose their protective barriers, leading to coastal erosion, flooding, and storm damage. This threatens the livelihoods of coastal communities in multiple ways and increases the likelihood of climate flight.

For more information on the underlying causes and consequences of coral mortality and reef degradation, check the NOAA ocean service website.