Could the next biochar frontier be ‘Sea-questration’?

reef balls

Taking up reef ball residence source: The economist

Sadly it’s been a long while since I read The Economist but I was unable to resist this week’s cover on the battle of the junkyard dogs (aka oil sheikhs vs fracksters). My m.o. when reading this particular magazine is to quickly scan the whole thing and see what grabs my attention first, read that, then read the entire (OK most of it) thing later. A picture labeled ‘Taking up reef ball residence’ was the first prize winner and was soon devoured by my eager eyes.

The reason this perked my interest is that I have long thought that artificial reefs made out of biochar plaster might be a very interesting area of research. It might just prove to be the next frontier in multi-beneficial carbon ‘sea-questration’! There were a few particularly relevant things I learned from the article. First concrete seems to be the material of choice for reef balls but they need to be treated to reduce acidity. Also when casting the balls in fiberglass molds, they are sprayed to promote the creation of tiny hollows to promote coral growth. Enter the biochar alternative. Biochar is usually alkaline so no treatment required. Also concrete carries with it a very heavy carbon footprint, whereas biochar could safely bury carbon in a beneficial manner. And as readers of this blog will know, tiny holes are what define biochar, so I would think that coral would glom on to it in a big way.

The other fascinating bit of serendipity is that Thomas Goreau, head of the Global Coral Reef Alliance who is heavily quoted in the article, presented at the 2013 NA Biochar conference last year. His topic was on something completely different than reef-covery operations, but it was encouraging to think about the possibilities of connecting the carbon dots and potentially testing some biochar reef balls in the not too distant future!

So for those of you that would like to offset your carbon footprint in the most memorable and beneficial way possible, perhaps you could sponsor a biochar reef ball for your favorite (but ailing) dive spot or mangrove.  These new biochar reefs, perhaps we should call them ‘sea-mentaries’, might just be able to help bring back dead zones!

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