Natural coral reefs are thriving miniature ecosystems that support thousands of local organism including fish, anemones, sponges, and even large predators like sharks. Artificial coral reefs, often formed of recycled materials or sunken ships, provide homes to many of the ocean’s creatures similar to the way natural reefs do. That said, building or deploying an artificial reef has notable disadvantages.
One of the major negative side effects of artificial coral reefs comes in the form of debris and pollution caused by the construction and deployment of the reef. With crews in multiple ships working on the water, it is only natural that some accidental damage to the existing environment will occur during the deployment procedure. For this reason, it is important that reef construction and installation processes be designed to cause as few harmful effects as possible.
While some substances make excellent artificial reefs, scientists are divided on the use of certain materials for the creation of these underwater habitats. Heavy metals, often found in ships sunk for the sake of reef creation, contain toxic materials that can slowly creep into the environment and cause damage to the existing wildlife population. Even materials that have been thoroughly checked and cleaned may cause unforeseen problems when introduced into a delicate environment.
Natural coral reefs are sturdy and secure. Artificial reefs, if not designed properly, may not be quite as stable. If an artificial coral reef is not of sufficient weight, strong storms can carry the reef from its intended to location to where it may cause more harm than good, damaging existing natural reefs and destroying angler’s nets and other fixtures. Artificial reefs must be designed to bear the brunt of the ocean’s most powerful forces.
One major issue with artificial coral reefs is that they are not usually marked on a map. This can create dangerous scenarios for casual boaters or vessels that rely on the sea for income, as artificial reefs can cause great damage to ships of any size. Fishing, shipping, and recreational vessels are all at risk of running aground on artificial reefs or ending up with catastrophic damage caused by a collision.