Located on the coast of Mexico, Riviera Maya is surrounded by the Mesoamerican coral reef. This reef is the second largest coral reef in the world. 25% of all marine species are found in coral reefs and these are also the best wave barriers, dissipating up to 97% of wave energy before the waves reach the beach.
However, human activity and climate change are endangering this reef. The constantly rising water temperatures and human waste are causing more and more corals to perish. If this problem is not addressed, there is a chance that all corals will be gone by 2050. This has a huge effect on underwater life; about 25% of marine life is at risk of extinction.
These developments threaten not only life underwater, but also life on land. All life above water is as dependent on the underwater ecosystem as vice versa.
The coral reefs in the Riviera Maya also provide nearly two million Mexicans with income, food, tourism and protection against extreme waves. As coral reefs become more degraded and natural barriers disappear, erosion is causing beaches to be swept away. The land becomes vulnerable to destruction by large waves. Restoration of coral reefs is critical to coastal protection.
We are Arend, David, Evie, Henrik and Sofie, five students from TU Delft. For the minor International Entrepreneurship & Development we will spend 3 months helping to restore coral reefs and protect the coast from the waves in Mexico. We are doing this together with Reefy. A startup that is designing the first modular artificial reef with a dual purpose: stable enough to stop waves for coastal protection, and it also provides a new and complex habitat for sea life. We are now in the Riviera Maya, collaborating with Reefy, to conduct research on:
1. The optimal strategy for large-scale reef restoration and coastal protection;
2. Currently used breakwaters and artificial reef structures;
3. Innovative materials for breakwaters that stimulate coral growth.
Students4Sustainability is sponsoring our project so that we can conduct diving research on artificial reefs and materials that stimulate coral growth. Thus, by implementing Reefy's breakwaters, Mexico and the rest of the world can be protected from future coastal erosion while also stimulating coral formation.