The University of Miami will implement hybrid reefs in Miami Beach

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The experiment will use concrete structures with live corals and oyster beds to test their ability to absorb wave energy

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The University of Miami will implement hybrid reefs in Miami Beach

Climate change has increased erosion due to the impact of waves on the beaches of the south florida. (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Two will be installed by the end of January20-foot (6-meter) long hybrid reefs off the coast of Miami Beach, at 80th Street, to test their ability to absorb wave energy in The real world. This test, carried out by researchers from the University of Miami (UM), is part of an effort to protect the coasts from the effects of climate change.

Following a particularly damaging series of storms in 2018, the The United States Department of Defense found it necessary to find ways to protect its coastal bases from flooding, erosion, and storm surges.

With the increase in At sea level, due to the effects of climate change, storm surges and erosion of things are expected to increase. To mitigate the damage this causes to coastal bases, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencyrecruited corals, oysters, and three international teams of scientists, led by researchers from the University of Miami, the University of Hawaii and Rutgers University.

< p class="paragraph">Researchers have developed hybrid reefs, a combination of concrete structures with coral reefs and oyster beds. If it works, the effect this would have in reducing the havoc caused by the sea will save billions of dollars for the military, as well as save numerous human lives.

The University of Miami to implement hybrid reefs in Miami Beach

The reefs protect the coasts by absorbing the energy of the waves. (National Park Service)

The application of this technology would transcend its military use. For coastal communities like Miami and Miami Beach, the impact this new defense mechanism could have is incalculable.

University of Miami professor of ecology and marine biology Andrew Baker, expressed interest in seeing hybrid reefs deployed in Miami-Dade County to protect barrier islands such as Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. “If you're going to do this anywhere in the world and want to get the most bang for your buck, there's no better place than the Southeast Florida because we're so vulnerable,” Baker said.

Laboratory tests, conducted in UM's massive wind and wave tank on Virginia Key They were promising. The scientists placed an artificial reef structure at the bottom of the 38,000-gallon tank and covered it with tiny skeletons of staghorn coral. According to an article published in 2021, the result was a reduction in wave energy between 11% and 98%, depending on the reef design and the types of waves launched.

Local governments along Florida's coasts have been creating artificial reefs for decades, using everything from old ships to concrete rubble. However, the objective of these has been to attract divers and recreational fishermen, and at the same time reduce the pressure on natural reefs.

“Artificial reefs are not new, and to some extent even hybrid reefs are not new,” Baker said. “The new thing about all this is thinking about: How do we do this in the best possible way? What is the best design to reduce wave energy?”

The University of Miami will implement hybrid reefs in Miami Beach

If it works, the hybrid reefs could absorb more than 90% of the wave energy. (University of Hawaii)

The hybrid reefs that will be tested were specifically designed for the purpose of mitigating wave damage to shorelines. The bases of these, made up of concrete structures, will be stacked like LEGO bricks.and they will have rough surfaces so that corals and others can cling to them. In addition, they will be hollow and full of holes, which will increase their ability to absorb wave energy and reduce material costs.

In November, the scientists plan to begin construction of a 50 meter long hybrid reef to be installed off the coast of Key West Naval Air Base. Another section of the same length will be built in 2026 to be placed next to the first one. By then, they will incorporate new concrete designs and the most global warming resistant corals they have been able to develop.

“Ultimately, the goal is, whatever we learn from this, we want to scale it up and use it in other areas, including here, closer to home, in Miami-Dade or Broward county,” Baker said.

< p class="paragraph">If successful, they will have developed a technology that can absorb 90% of wave energy at a cost of less than USD 300 per cubic meter of hybrid reef.


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