Taking Responsibility to Rebuild Coral Reefs
The world’s coral reefs are in trouble — marine heatwaves linked to climate change, human destruction and pollution are contributing to the loss of reefs around the world. At the current rate of decline, it is quite possible that in two generations, aquariums may be the only place a young child will be able to witness the wonder of color and life that encompasses a coral reef.
Our Sustainable in a Generation Plan enables us to find new and innovative ways to make a lasting difference in protecting and preserving our planet. Part of this work is happening right now in the heart of the Coral Triangle, one of the most biodiverse natural ecosystems in the world.
While you might not associate rebuilding coral reefs off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, with Mars’ global business strategy, it’s part of our long-standing commitment to work closely with local communities to solve complex problems and help sustain the livelihoods of people in our supply chains.
What began as a question and a challenge in 2010 – Is it possible to rebuild a coral reef? — has evolved into something very unique within the greater Mars ecosystem, and the world.
Since 2011 Mars has been continuously developing and refining a low-cost, reproducible method of coral reef ecosystem restoration. Called MARRS (Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System), the method is based on installing a continuous web of “reef stars” — hexagonal sand coated steel structures with coral fragments attached —covering barren coral rubble fields and gaps between the remaining live coral on the reef. Over 18,000 reef stars incorporating 270,000 coral fragments have now been installed across two different reefs, equal to three hectares. The resulting effort is what now is likely one of the world’s largest restored coral reef ecosystems and active restoration programs and is spread across two island communities in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, as well as a third location off the island of Bali.
In a short time, we have had remarkable results. The MARRS method, which provides a structure that facilitates rapid coral growth and promotes the functional recovery of the reef, has successfully demonstrated an increase in the coral growth, diversity and even new recruitment, with new coral coverage consistently exceeding 50 percent in less than two years.
The ecological footprint, and therefore biological value, of the restoration site goes well beyond its physical footprint by producing coral larvae, nurseries areas and feeding stations for migratory species. Within a very short space of time, all structures used to construct and kick-start reef recovery are integrated in to the natural reef framework. The reef stars also provide an ideal platform where super-corals can attach and compliment other initiatives aimed at protecting the future of corals around the world from the threats of climate change.
This has in turn attracted a huge variety of fish and marine life, thereby providing the basis for both longer term food security and job opportunities for the local community. Not only can you see the difference year over year, you can hear it as well. MARRS is now increasingly recognized by the scientific community as a proven potential method which can be used to restore rubble fields within damaged coral reefs.
As always, we have our sights on the future. Our success in Indonesia has inspired us to take our learnings around the world in 2019; including to the Mesoamerican Reef off Mexico as well as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. To do the latter, we have formed partnerships with tourism operators and local universities such as James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, which gives us the opportunity to collaborate with some of the world’s leading marine scientists to perhaps help restore the iconic Great Barrier Reef. We also plan to work with JCU to explore solutions for other challenges we face in our supply chains, like cocoa pollination and next-generation small farming productivity techniques.
This partnership is only the start — and we know we can’t do it alone. Only by working together can we preserve the beauty and biodiversity of our planet for generations to come.