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Japanese Marine Biologist Uses Steel to Help Revive Coral Reefs

Mineo Okamoto of Tokyo University has been working to restore coral reefs for more than 15 years.

July 9, 2013

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The use of steel can help to revive coral reefs in Indonesia and elsewhere, according to a report in The Yomiuri Shimbun that covered the International Conference on Climate Change and Coral Reef Conservation held last month in Japan. Mineo Okamoto, a professor of marine environmental studies at Tokyo University has been cultivating coral frags in Indonesia using steel settlement devices with great success.

coral growing on ceramic plug
Biologist Mineo Okamoto shows a coral frag growing on a ceramic plug in 2002. A similar plug made of steel is the latest that Okamoto has developed. Photo by Toyko University of Marine Science and Technology

According to the report, Okamoto, who is leading the coral revitalization efforts using the steel settlements said that there are 80 species of coral growing in the Indonesia experimental area and that the revitalization of corals is progressing smoothly. Okamoto said in March 2013 that the corals have attached themselves to the steel disk shaped coral settlement tools called "koma" or tops, that he and his colleagues placed in the ocean just northeast of Indonesia's Sulawesi Island in 2012. The koma are just 5 centimeters in diameter and are constructed of iron steel slag, which is a byproduct of steel manufacturing. It features grooves on the surface in which the corals can more easily adhere to, Okamoto said. Okamoto, who has been perfecting the koma for the last 15 years said that if the discs are combined much like abacus beads and placed into the ocean pre-coral spawn, the coral larvae adhere to them and grow on them. After 18 months of growth, the koma are separated and implanted on rocks to create or expand a coral colony.


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Okamoto has been working to restore the world's coral reefs for several decades. He deployed a similar coral settlement device as the steel settlement device, but made of ceramic in Japan's Sekisei Lagoon in April and May 2002 and returned in August 2002 to collect and count the corals that settled on the devices.

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