The Biorock Revolution: Restoring Coral Reefs in Pemuteran, Bali

The Biorock Revolution: Restoring Coral Reefs in Pemuteran, Bali

Coral Degradation: A Rising Concern

Coral reef’s are under stress. Rising sea levels, changing temperatures, severe weather events, and environmental degradation due to human activity are causing reefs around the world to shrink and die. This has a follow on effect of causing reduced biodiversity, and reduced marine life.

Reefs are an important part of nature. They are the forests of the underwater world, and provide habitats for countless ocean species. So it goes without saying that protection, preservation and restoration should be a priority.

Enter Biorock: Pemuteran’s Reef Restoration Gem

“What is Biorock?” You might be wondering. To add a layer of context, when it comes to helping the reefs survive and thrive, there are two methods: active, and passive. Passive methods involve things like banning certain fishing practices, establishing protected areas, and curtailing unwanted pollution – and then waiting for the reefs to recover on their own. Active methods involve direct intervention like coral seeding, transplantation, and mineral accretion (aka Biorock).

Biorock is exactly what it sounds like – a rock-like material formed by an electrochemical mineral accretion process. By submerging a steel structure and setting up electrodes, an electrochemical process begins to attract and bond natural calcium carbonate deposits onto the steel from the surrounding ocean water. Alongside the calcium carbonate, other minerals also bond into the biorock “cement” such as magnesium, chloride, and hydroxyl ions, which form a sturdy foundation for corals to attach onto and grow from. Biorock becomes the perfect bedding for baby corals to grow from, and the Pemuteran Biorock project has shown that it’s possible to rapidly develop new coral gardens using this method.


Why the Pemuteran Biorock Project

The Pemuteran Biorock project was established in 2000. The initiative began as a collaboration between local stakeholders, including dive shop operators and resort owners, alongside international experts and scientists (Professor Wolf H Hibertz & Doctor Thomas Goreau) who specialized in the Biorock method. Since its inception, the project has expanded significantly, becoming one of the largest and most successful Biorock reef restoration efforts in the world with over 100 submerged structures along the Pemuteran coastline.

From Inception to Now

In 2000, Pemuteran’s reefs were in bad shape. Climate change, destructive fishing, coral bleaching, and mismanaged tourism all contributed to the declining health.

1. Recognizing the Need

The reefs around Pemuteran suffered from multiple stressors, including destructive fishing practices, bleaching events, and tourism-related damage.


2. Engaging the Local Stakeholders:

The initiative was a collaborative effort between the local dive shop owners, resort operators, village leaders, and NGOs.

Pemuteran village leaders played a crucial role in embracing the project and rallying community support.

Pemuteran village delegation.jpg

3. Securing Initial Support and Funding:

The project was initially kickstarted with support from international experts and scientists, including Dr. Thomas Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz, pioneers of the Biorock method.

Initial funding and technical expertise were secured through global partnerships and sponsors.


4. Choosing the Site:

Sites with degraded reefs, which were relatively protected from major disturbances and close to the shore for easy maintenance, were selected. The most accessibly area to visit the Pemuteran Biorock project is right off the Pemuteran Beach. You can grab a snorkel and swim from the shore out to multiple structures. The structures are mostly unique different shapes, and are a great opportunity to practice diving down to get a closer look at them.

CleanShot 2023-10-07 at 18.07.36@2x.png

5. Designing the Biorock Structures:

Early structures were basic in design, but as the project progressed, more intricate designs, including large metal frames in various shapes, were submerged.


6. Electrical Setup:

Solar panels were primarily used as the energy source for the project, providing a sustainable way to generate the necessary electricity.


7. Coral Transplantation:

Coral fragments, damaged by anchors or other activities, were collected and secured to the Biorock structures to accelerate reef recovery.


8. Community Involvement and Training:

Local fishermen, previously involved in destructive fishing practices, were trained to maintain the Biorock structures and monitor coral growth. This also provided them with alternative livelihoods.

Dive operators and tourists were educated on reef-safe practices.

images (1).jpeg
images (3).jpeg
images (2).jpeg

9. Establishing a Protected Marine Area:

The village declared the region around the Biorock structures a “no-fishing” zone, which further enhanced coral recovery.


10. Regular Monitoring and Maintenance:

The health of the corals, functionality of the electrical systems, and integrity of the structures were continually monitored and maintained.


11. Expanding the Project:

Based on the initial success, more Biorock structures were added, eventually covering a vast area and becoming one of the largest such projects in the world.


12. Promoting Eco-Tourism:

The rejuvenated reefs began attracting divers and snorkelers. Eco-tourism became a significant source of funding and support for the project, with many resorts adopting their own Biorock structures.

Pemuteran-diving (1).jpg

How You Can Contribute

If you’re looking to leave your own positive impact on the reef in Pemuteran, there are a number of ways you can directly contribute to the restoration, regeneration, and regrowth of the reef ecosystem.

  1. Sponsor a baby coral: This is the simplest and easiest way to contribute. There are numerous providers in the region that are a part of this program.
  2. Sponsor a coral structure: Going one step further than just planting a small coral on a structure, you can provide the funds to build an entire steel housing for the coral. These structures are designed in such a way to support a large number of corals to grow together, usually forming a dome which becomes an ecosystem.
  3. Visit as an eco tourist: Snorkeling or Diving with one of the providers that is a part of the program directly helps to provide funds that help to build more structures, and run the coral nurseries.

Official Resources

Global Coral Reef Alliance

The Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the research, protection, and sustainable management of coral reefs globally. Established in the late 1980s, GCRA unites a diverse network of researchers, divers, environmentalists, and other stakeholders who are committed to preserving coral reefs.

Here are some key aspects and activities associated with the GCRA:

  1. Biorock Technology: One of the most well-known innovations promoted by GCRA is the Biorock method. Biorock is a patented process that uses low-voltage electric currents to promote the rapid growth of corals and other marine organisms on artificial structures submerged in the sea. The electric field stimulates the deposition of minerals from seawater, leading to the formation of limestone structures that provide an ideal substrate for coral attachment and growth.
  2. Research: GCRA conducts and supports scientific research related to coral reefs, including studies on reef ecology, the impacts of climate change, and innovative techniques for reef restoration.
  3. Conservation and Restoration: The organization works on projects that aim to conserve, manage, and restore damaged coral reefs. This includes not only the deployment of Biorock structures but also other methods suitable for specific conditions and locales.

If you are looking for the official resources on Biorock technology, and the Biorock projects around the world, you can find that here.

Karang Lestari Pemuteran

Karang Lestatari translates to “sustainable coral”. Here is an official place you can sponsor and grow a baby coral on one of the Pemuteran Biorock structures. They plans the coral with your name on a metal tag that stays with the coral as it grows over the following years.

FAQ: Pemuteran Biorock Project

What is the Pemuteran Biorock Project?

The Pemuteran Biorock project is a coral reef restoration initiative located in Pemuteran, Bali. It uses the Biorock technology to accelerate the growth and health of corals, aiming to rehabilitate degraded reefs.

How does the Biorock method work?

The Biorock method involves running a low-voltage electric current through steel structures submerged in seawater. This process induces mineral accretion, promoting faster coral growth and increased resilience against environmental stressors.

Why was the project started in Pemuteran?

The reefs in Pemuteran faced degradation from harmful fishing techniques, coral bleaching events, tourism pressures, and other factors. The project was initiated to restore the health and vibrancy of these vital marine ecosystems.

Who runs the project?

The project is a collaborative effort involving local stakeholders, such as dive shop owners and resort operators, alongside international experts and conservationists specializing in the Biorock method.

How can I contribute or support the project?

You can support the project through donations, volunteering, adopting a Biorock structure, visiting Pemuteran as an eco-tourist, raising awareness, and other means. Specific details on how to contribute can be found on the project’s official website or by contacting the managing organizations.

How long does it take for corals to grow on Biorock structures?

Under optimal conditions, corals on Biorock structures can grow 3-5 times faster than in natural settings. Significant growth can be observed within 2-5 years, though a fully mature reef ecosystem will take longer to establish.

Can I visit the Biorock structures in Pemuteran?

Yes, the structures are popular diving and snorkeling sites. When visiting, it’s essential to practice reef-safe behaviors to protect the corals and marine life.

How much does it cost to sponsor a coral or Biorock structure?

Costs can vary based on the specifics of the sponsorship. It’s best to contact the managing organization or check their website for detailed information.

How many Biorock structures are there in Pemuteran?

The exact number can change as new structures are added or as the project evolves. Pemuteran hosts one of the largest Biorock reef restoration efforts globally.

Are there similar projects elsewhere in the world?

Yes, the Biorock method is utilized in various locations worldwide, from the Caribbean to other parts of the Indo-Pacific.

Explore the region on the map

Read more about Northwest Bali