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September 8th, 2011 – Biorock Thriving but Hardly Used



Koh Tao’s electrified reef is one of Koh Tao’s more exciting dive locations but receives very few divers. It was our major community project for 2008 and has been doing very well since it was deployed in September/October of that year but unfortunately it gets little use.


Developing artificial reefs is a time consuming and labour intensive job. Especially when the result is far less impressive than what a natural reef can produce! It really shows you the value of our natural reefs and why we should protect them. That aside, artificial reefs have an important role to play on Koh Tao to reduce pressure on our overcrowded dive sites.


So when the location was chosen for Koh Tao’s Biorock project of 2008 we decided for a location that was close to Sairee and therefore close to many of the major dive sites on Koh Tao. The premise we made was that dive schools would use it because it was close. But what we failed to take into account was the lack of flexibility and imagination shown by most if not all dive schools when it comes to dive boat scheduling.


Most divers and instructors don’t want to go someplace new despite it being ‘interesting’. But a  bigger obstacle tends to be that most dive boats on Koh Tao tend to have numerous divers all with different objectives – Open Water divers, Advanced Divers, Discover Scuba Diving participants -  and taking such a variety of divers to a new, unknown site can be difficult when each objective can be very specific and require just the right conditions which are easier if you know the site.


In addition the current at Biorock is often reasonable, and teaching many courses in anything but a mild current can be a challenge.


But, excluding all of these so called negative factors the Biorock is thriving after an intensive year by marine conservation students and managers to increase the transplant efforts to help to populate the Biorock ‘domes’ a liitle more rapidly this year. This involves collecting compromised coral fragments from the sea floor and transplanting them onto the structure.


One way to measure coral growth is to do what are called Quadrant surveys, where 1 square metre areas are surveyed to see how much is covered with live coral. In the past we would always come up with figures like 0.8%  - 2% whereas this time we noticed a marked difference in the figures ranging from 5% - 8% coverage.


Biorock is a patented technology so is difficult and expensive to implement on a widespread scale but it is one of the few reef restoration technologies to address the issue of changing water chemistry and global warming. Global warming is making the ocean more acidic but by electrifying sea water we can change the chemistry of the corals in the immediate vicinity to be more basic and help corals and other calcifying organisms to grow faster, possibly stronger and in a wider variety of water qualities. It attracts fish and other marine animals and becomes a fully functioning ecosystem very quickly.


So our Biorock is going great. So try & get out to see it soon, and if your dive school doesn’t go there, maybe you should ask them why!!


For more images see…


Biorock Partners

Reef Check/Koh Tao Ecological Monitoring Program Associates

Eco Koh Tao

Crystal Dive

Biorock Technologies

Marine Conservation Koh Tao


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