An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany

Reef Resurrection

Mario Ehe

Coral bleaching in iconic places like the Great Barrier Reef has high media coverage, and fills many people with concern. It has become one of the symbolic images of environmental degradation due to climate change. Special attention has therefore been paid in recent years to the development of strategies to protect, restore, and repopulate coral reefs. Different methods of constructing artificial reefs were applied: spawning events were utilized to capture coral eggs and sperm for a process called coral IVF that is supposed to enhance the corals’ reproductive success, and even geoengineering has been implemented to produce artificial clouds that limit detrimental water warming locally. In January 2022, the Colombian President, Iván Duque, announced that in the future, the military would be used to protect the coral reefs as well as other natural treasures of the country. However, this approach is not without controversy: The NGO Fundación Ideas para la Paz had already warned two years earlier against an unsustainable green militarization, from which the rural population would especially suffer. Even the other, less brute methods have their weak points. The example of Kiribati shows that, sometimes, refraining from human intervention is the better way to go—after the island nation had lost half of its coral reefs in 2015 and 2016 due to ocean warming, the government banned fishing and placed the waters under full protection. The recovering fish stocks freed the coral skeletons from harmful algae and enabled them to come back to life.
The frame to frame animation shows a reef forming from the letter R. Finally, corals and algae grow upwards from the reef. It is kept in neutral, bluish tones, which reflect the color impression when diving.

Sources: Tollefson, Jeff, “Can Clouds Save the Great Barrier Reef?”, Nature, vol. 596, (2021): 476-478.

Fundación Ideas para la Paz, “Fuerzas Militares y la protección del ambiente: Roles, riesgos y oportunidades”, (2020).

Sala, Enric, “Wunder im Pazifik: Sensationelle Erholung eines Korallenriffs”, National Geographic, vol.11, (2022).