Coral reefs offer a wealth of benefits, ranging from securing healthy protein sources to dissipating wave energy, thereby protecting coastlines from escalating storm frequencies and intensities. Additionally, coral reefs present outstanding prospects for education through ecotourism. Yet, these crucial ecosystems face severe decline due to an assortment of compounding problems such as unexpected and unpredictable effects of climate change. On a global scale, stressors such as ocean acidification and thermal events linked to rising atmospheric carbon levels are impairing coral's capacity to form robust skeletal structures, which serve as the bedrock of coral reefs.
Coral restoration approaches and applications have evolved in complexity, although their scalability often confronts economic constraints. To curb expenses, materials that are easily accessible but environmentally suboptimal – such as PVC, plastics like zip ties and mesh, fiberglass, rebar, and fishing line – are frequently employed. This scenario creates a substantial opportunity for environmentally friendly, plant-based, and natural materials that emulate the inherent properties of the ecosystem.
Advancements in our robotic 3D/4D printing technology are yielding highly precise and intricate designs custom-fitted to meet the requirements of practitioners. These innovations are poised to promote coral growth and stimulate healthy microbiome development. In the drive to preserve and enhance coral reef ecosystems and the communities dependent on them, creative solutions that boost the effectiveness of restoration projects are vital.
"KAUST shall be a beacon for peace, hope and reconciliation, and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and the world."
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 1924 – 2015
Thuwal 23955-6900, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Al-Haytham Building (Bldg. 2)