3D printed terracotta coral reefs could save rainforests of the sea

What is a coral reefs?

The main constituents of a coral reef are polyps, these polyps are numbered in thousands and a colony forms a coral reef. These marine animals categorized as invertebrates have hard outer surfaces made of calcium carbonate. Coral reefs are sessile meaning they are fixed in one place permanently.

Warm, shallow, clear, sunny, and perturbed water are the best conditions for a coral reef to grow. Coral reefs grow better in oceans where few nutrients are available. Corals feed on small marine life like fishes and plankton but most of the corals feed on algae called zooxanthellae.

3D printed terracotta coral reefs could save rainforests of the sea

Why coral reefs are important?

Some 485 million years ago, Coral reefs displaced the microbial and sponge reefs. Coral reefs occupy 0.1 % of the world’s oceanic area, about half the area of Spain, yet 25% of all marine species find a habitat in the form of coral reefs.

Since 1950, 50% of the coral reefs have vanished and the reasons are not one but many. Coral reefs need a lesser amount of nutrients to grow and excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus have resulted in the depletion of these coral reefs.

Rainforest of the sea

Coral reefs are often called the rainforest of the sea for their amazing richness of marine life. Corals’ complex structures make them the most productive ecosystems on earth, they provide mankind with several services such as fisheries, coastal protection, medicines, recreation, and tourism. The vanishing of coral reefs has serious consequences for marine life.

What are the causes of coral reef destruction?

  • Illegal fishing habits
  • Pollution
  • Natural phenomena such as earthquakes and hurricanes
  • Climate change
  • Acidification of seawater
  • Rising ocean heat content etc.

Like rainforests, coral reefs are endangered by human influences

What are the types of Coral reefs?

There are mainly four types of coral reefs.

Fringing reefs:

They grow near the coastline around continents and islands and are separated from the shoreline by narrow.

Barrier reefs:

The Great barrier reef of Australia is a good example of this type of reef. They exist parallel to the coastline and are separated by deeper, wider lagoons.


These are rings of coral also it has usually located in the middle of the sea. When islands surrounded by fringing reefs sink into the sea they turn into Atolls. The Lakshadweep islands are a good example of an Atoll.

Patch reef:

These reefs are usually situated between fringing reefs and barrier reefs. They come in various sizes and rarely reach the surface of the water.

What are 3-d printed terracotta coral reefs?

The recovery of lost coral reefs can take decades, scientists and then researchers have developed an artificial design of coral reefs called 3-d printed terracotta coral reefs. Terracotta has been in use since antiquity for various purposes and it has historical significance.

These 3-d printed terracotta coral reefs are replicas of the real coral reefs and they can grow vertically as well as horizontally. Scientists chose clay as the best suitable material for 3-d printed terracotta coral reefs because it doesn’t change underwater conditions. These terracotta tiles have a lot of perforations so that sediment doesn’t block the corals and suffocate them.

Many species of fishes can hide, lay eggs and sleep in the 3-d printed terracotta coral reefs. Scientists and researchers from around the world think that this method of creating artificial coral reefs could save our depleting coral reefs and marine life. This method has seen use in many coastal countries and island countries and is a promising solution to the problem.

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