Space & Innovation

LEGO-Like Ocean Reef Shelters Sea Life: Photos

An affordable, easy-to-deploy artificial reef gives ocean plants and animals a chance to thrive in areas devastated by humans and climate change.

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Tourism, bottom-trawl fishing, rising sea temperature, and ocean acidification -- all of these wreak havoc on coral reefs around the world. Australian designer Alex Goad, who also dives, witnessed the devastation first hand and wanted to help. He designed the Modular Artificial Reef Structure (MARS) a LEGO-inspired habitat meant to give ocean plants and animals a chance to thrive in areas devastated by humans and climate change.

Goad created modules from ceramic, a material known to resist the corrosive effects of seawater. The modules can be clamped together to form three-dimensional lattice structures as big or as small as needed.

Portable and affordable, the units can be deployed from small boats and snapped together underwater by divers. This eliminates the need for big boats and costly, heavy-duty machinery otherwise needed to submerge artificial reefs.

The modular reefs provide a foothold for growth and speed up the recovery of underwater communities. "What may have taken 100 years to restore naturally can be reduced to an estimated eight to 15 years using the MARS system," Goad told

Dezeen

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The surface of the modules has many dents, nooks and crannies that offer the very first colonizing organisms -- typically the smallest -- protection from predators.

"Many people do not agree with the use of artificial reefs for restoration, believing that reef systems should be left alone to restore themselves," Goad told Dezeen. "In many cases this is an acceptable practice, however when the rate of destruction far exceeds the rate of natural coral growth then we must intervene." MARS has been tested in Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, as well as sites in Cairns and at local aquariums. It also won the graduate prize for Best Product Design from Monash University as well as the Hills Young Australian Design Award for Sustainability 2014.