South coast, Aruba
According to the Living Planet Report 2022 from the World Wide Fund for Nature, biodiversity loss in the Caribbean region is greater than any other region in the world. Loss of habitats for wildlife is one of the leading causes for this drastic decline. Since the economies of the Caribbean islands largely depends on a healthy and rich natural environment, biodiversity loss also affects economic sectors such as tourism and fishing. A 2018 study on the value of Aruba's nature, for example, concluded that the degradation of the marine environment could potentially lead to a 50% reduction in prosperity for the people living on the island. It is therefore crucial for people and planet to stop this decline and reverse the direction from biodiversity loss to biodiversity restoration. The ‘Turning the Tide’ program has been initiated to restore marine habitats, which leads to biodiversity increase in the ocean. In collaboration with Aruba National Park Foundation (FPNA), Wageningen University & Research, University of Aruba, Scubble Bubbles Foundation and STINAPA Bonaire, 13 artificial MOSES-reefs have been placed along the south coast of Aruba to facilitate marine life and restore coral reefs.
The placement of these artificial reefs is part of the EU-funded RESEMBID’s ‘Turning the Tide’ project. The goal of this project is to maintain economic resilience on Aruba through hands-on restoration and conservation of its marine biodiversity. ReefSystems has provided 13 large artificial reefs for the Turning the Tide project. These will placed on 4 locations spread along the south coast of Aruba. Each of the locations is in one of the marine parks managed by FPNA.
Stage 1: Preparation
After the EU-funding was received, various specialists were contacted to determine the research goals of this project. Four different areas along the south coast of Aruba were selected, where artificial reefs were going to be placed. The different sights were selected to research the effect of several differentiating factors on the enhancement of marine biodiversity. To construct artificial reefs with a highly complex 3D structure, which is the most effective to create habitats for marine species, ReefSystems transported 700 MOSES reef-units from Amsterdam to Aruba. In Aruba, coral nurseries were set up to cultivate new corals. Here small coral fragments are placed in a ‘coral tree’ under water. After 5 - 8 months, these corals have gained enough strength to be transplanted onto the newly placed artificial reef structures.
Stage 2: Construction
To promote this project, several press conferences were organized to inform the local community. This resulted in a high amount of volunteers that were very enthusiastic about the realization of this project. By involving the local community with this restoration project, awareness is created, which also leads to a sense of responsibility to expand this project and maintain the positive attitude towards the restoration of the marine ecosystem. When the MOSES reefs arrived in Aruba, 13 artificial reefs were constructed.
Stage 3: Installation
The reefs were transported to the harbor with trucks and lifted onto the installation vessel. A crane with a pulley was lifted onto the installation vessel as well to install the reefs one by one on the different locations. Some of the chosen areas were hard to reach by boat, so for these sights the reefs were placed close by, whereafter they were lifted again with balloons to transport them to their final location.
Stage 4: Protection
We are very happy to conclude that the locations where our reefs have been installed are now official protected ''RAMSAR sights''! The RAMSAR Convention is a convention on wetlands that was signed in 1971. The negotiations for the convention started in the 1960s by the different countries and NGOs for the protection of wetlands and their resources. Finally, it came into force in 1975. This event enables upscaling possibilities, whereafter the reef areas will be managed effectively, which will result in biodiversity increase!
Stage 5: Visit of royal highness princes Beatrix Oranje Nassau
Stage 6: Coral transplantation
When the water temperatures have dropped it is time to place the newly cultivated corals onto the artificial reefs. This will probably be done at the end of the year, where after the research starts. Students from Wageningen University & Research and Aruba University will monitor the reefs and biodiversity increase over the coming years.