50 MARRS Reef Stars have recently been installed on Great Barrier Reef, in efforts to help restore a section of Moore Reef badly damaged by Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
The new reef resilience program, being managed by Reef Magic Cruises in collaboration James Cook University, was developed by a team from consumer goods giant Mars, as part of the company’s Sustainable in a Generation Plan. It’s called the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS). (Yes, that’s Mars as in Mars Bars.)
Central to this innovative new program, a MARRS Reef Star is a hexagonal sand-coated steel structure that provides a stable base for coral fragments to grow. They have shown impressive results from the earlier installations in the Indonesian province of Sulawesi, where coral cover at sites has increased from 10% to over 60% within just two years. There are now Reef Star installations in several countries across the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Ocean.
Installed by a team that includes Reef Magic’s marine biologists, GBRMPA Master Reef Guides and local indigenous rangers, the Reef Stars are designed to assist the regrowth of coral on a section of the reef damaged by cyclone Yasi back in 2011. The rubble left behind as a result of the cyclone has made it hard for new coral growth to find purchase, so the stars are designed to give the reef a helping hand by providing a stable footing.
The team plans to install approximately 50 additional MARRS Reef Stars every six months, part of a five-year scientific study with James Cook University to trial the system’s effectiveness in stabilizing coral rubble resulting from the cyclone.
Alicia McArdle, Marine Program Manager for Mars Sustainable Solutions, said: “We are thrilled to be bringing the Reef Star system to Australia to help future-proof the health and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef. Our goal is to provide coral colonies with valuable time to adapt and increase their resilience at the same time as society seeks to reduce its emissions to reverse the impacts of climate change”.
Eric Fisher, Biology Manager at Reef Magic and GBR Biology, says the project is about boosting coral resilience and site stewardship: “This partnership is a great example of using the latest science to underpin our approach to sustainable tourism, and we are particularly pleased to trial this system for the first time in Australia.”