The cornerstone of our reef-regeneration is the Biri Bud, deployed within the Biri Initiative Coral Restoration Zone to promote growth of soft and hard corals.
The Biri Bud is a variant of the Reefbud, developed in the Philippines by environmental geoscientist Dr. Harald Kremnitz and Benjamin Tayag Jr. In 2006, they won a Country Development Marketplace grant from the World Bank to finance a pilot program called "REEForestation Using Recycled Waste Materials", placing Reefbuds offshore from coastal towns.
Reefbuds are superficially similar to a much older technology made of concrete, the "Reefball". But on close inspection, they are quite different. Reefbuds combine environment-friendly inorganic materials (including beach sand, cement and pebbles), and organic materials or "biomass". This mix gives Reefbuds the following characteristics:
POROSITY: A Reefbud is like a sponge, absorbing sea water together with suspended marine life such as spores, plankton and algae. Even in strong currents, marine life can latch onto the porous Reefbud as the currents drive them into its cavities.
CALCIFICATION: The mix 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 and turtle shells, etc.
STABILITY: Because Reefbuds are massive (typically about 450 kg) and become even heavier as they absorb water, they do not move even in strong currents during storms. Moreover, their hydrodynamic form allows currents to flow around them instead of pushing them. This stability makes Reefbuds perfect homes and spawning grounds for marine life.
COLONISATION SPEED: The most remarkable feature of Reefbuds is how fast they fulfill their purpose. Algae, small fish, sea anemones and shellfish are found aplenty 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 damaged coral reef.
BIRI BUD DEVELOPMENT
With each Reefbud weighing 450 kg, they are suited to locations where heavy lifting equipment, large 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 deployment site.
Biri Initiative therefore developed a variant of the Reefbud better suited to remote locations with limited equipment and funding. This was the Biri Bud, first deployed in 2015.
The most obvious difference is in the size, with a Biri Bud weighing just 150 kg. Experience has shown these are still stable in strong currents.
The smaller size makes Biri Buds easier to deploy. With a thick bamboo pole passed through the holes in its sides, a Biri Bud can easily be loaded onto the deployment platform Rose of Biri by two men.
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Another key difference is in the mix of materials. The main materials are still cement and sand, but about 20% of a Biri Bud is coral rubble. This is a natural fit for artificial reefs, and is available for just a small labour cost on any beach in Biri.
Then there's the biomass. Both Biri Buds and Reefbuds contain biomass to hasten coral colonisation, but the special biomass in Reefbuds must be shipped in. Biri Buds, by contrast, use free local materials such as coconut husks, fish bones, banana peel, rice stalks and crab shells, and the results have been very positive.