The cornerstone of reef-regeneration in Biri is the Biri Bud, a new type of artificial reef technology. These are being deployed within the Biri Initiative Coral Restoration Zone where they are proving themselves extremely effective in promoting growth of soft and hard corals.
The Biri Bud is a variant of the Reefbud, developed in the Philippines by the late Austrian-German environmental geoscientist Dr. Harald Kremnitz and Filipino partner Benjamin Tayag Jr.
In 2006, they won a Country Development Marketplace grant from the World Bank to finance a pilot program called the "REEForestation Using Recycled Waste Materials" project, placing Reefbuds offshore from coastal towns.
Reefbuds are superficially similar to a much older technology made of concrete, the "Reefball". But on closer inspection, they are quite different. Reefbuds combine environment-friendly inorganic materials (including beach sand, cement and pebbles), and organic materials or "biomass". This special mix forms structures with the following characteristics:
A Reefbud is like a sponge, absorbing sea water together with the marine life suspended in it, such as spores, plankton and algae. Even in strong currents, marine life can latch onto or take root in the Reefbud as the currents drive them into its porous cavities.
The blend of materials in a Reefbud reacts with sea water and triggers a calcification process much like the natural calcification processes that create coral reefs, crab shells, turtle shells, etc.
Because Reefbuds are massive structures (typically about 450 kg) that become even heavier as they absorb sea water, they do not move even in strong currents during storms.
Moreover, their hydrodynamic form allows currents to flow around them instead of pushing on them. This stability allows Reefbuds to become permanent homes and spawning grounds for marine life.
The most remarkable feature of Reefbuds is the speed at which they fulfill their purpose.
Algae, small fish, sea anemones and shellfish are found aplenty on Reefbuds just a few weeks after deployment even in a marine-dead area (only sand or mud), and there is currently no faster way to revitalise a severely damaged coral reef.
BIRI BUD DEVELOPMENT
With each Reefbud weighing 450 kg, they are best suited to projects in locations where heavy lifting equipment, larger boats and manpower are readily available. There is also a cost component in the biomass, which is specially formulated in Manila and shipped to the final deployment site.
Biri Initiative therefore decided to develop a variant of the Reefbud more suited to remote island locations with limited access to equipment and funding. The result was the Biri Bud, the first of which was deployed in 2015.
The most obvious difference is in the size, with a Biri Bud weighing 150 kg - one-third the size of a Reefbud. Field tests have shown that these are still stable in strong currents.
The smaller size also makes Biri Buds far easier to deploy. With a thick bamboo pole passed through the holes in its sides, a Biri Bud can easily be moved and loaded onto the deployment platform Rose of Biri by two strong men.
Another key difference is in the mix of materials used. The two main materials are still cement and sand, but Biri Buds also have a large proportion - about 20% - of coral rubble. This rubble is a natural fit for building artificial reefs, and is also available for just a small labour cost on any beach in Biri.
Then there's the biomass component. Both Biri Buds and Reefbuds contain biomass to speed up coral colonisation, but the scientifically formulated biomass in Reefbuds must be shipped to the deployment site. Biri Buds, by contrast, use biomass made entirely from free local materials. So far we have experimented with coconut husks, fish bones, banana peel, rice stalks and crab shells, to name but a few, and the results have been very positive.