The Nature Foundation, in collaboration with the Ocean Science Team from Reef Life Foundation, launched the IntelliReef Project on St. Maarten in late 2018 to establish IntelliReefs, nano-engineered reef habitats, in an effort to increase the resilience of coral species in our waters.
The Nature Foundation and Ocean Science Team deployed three of these systems into the oceans of St. Maarten at the end of 2018 as a pilot program. These three systems can be found throughout the Dutch side of the island in different locations with varying depths, water quality and water movement. This will make it possible to see how the substrates preform in different conditions over time.
In January 2020, a team from Reef Life Foundation returned to St. Maarten to assess and research the 14 month performance of the artificial reef substrates.
Reef Life Restoration (RLR) techniques use environmentally sustainable minerals as a specific coral species growth substrate, mimicking the complex composition of natural coral reefs. This means that the material the substrate is made of encourages natural, spontaneous coral growth. Designing and perfecting such material will, hopefully, lead to a higher and faster growth rate of corals in our waters.
The composition of the IntelliReefs includes exposed aggregates on the surface with small pockets. Within the rocky surface biodiverse coral larvae can attach, be protected and grow. These structures are designed to survive extreme weather, increased sedimentation levels, and changes to the ecosystem. Such conditions are common after hurricanes and large storms.