Beyond M&M’s: Mars’s Sweet Success in Coral Reef Restoration

by | Mar 12, 2024

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Since 2013, MARS Sustainable Solutions, a subsidiary of Mars Incorporated, has collaborated with Indonesia and other nations to reconstruct damaged coral reefs through the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS).

The Genesis and Mechanism of MARRS

This innovative approach utilizes a network of Reef Stars, hexagonal structures fabricated from locally sourced steel to which stony coral fragments are affixed by community members and researchers. Capable of deploying approximately 300 Reef Stars daily, MARRS effectively covers over 4300 square feet of reef floor, enabling coral to flourish in a three-dimensional matrix that withstands wave energy and fosters robust growth.

The design of the Reef Star network not only promotes stability but also captures storm debris, providing an additional foundation for coral development. Beyond rehabilitating barren rubble beds, the system is adaptable for smaller-scale sea-scaping efforts to enhance hard surface areas. Remarkable progress in coral coverage is observed within three years, with average rates hitting 60% and certain regions achieving up to 90%. Despite a minor loss in coral fragments, the restoration efforts have tripled fish biomass in just over a year.

Impact and Insights

The MARRS initiative offers comprehensive benefits across community, business, and governmental sectors. Local steel rebar manufacturers produce the Reef Stars, while conservation groups, diving teams, and educational bodies contribute to training, coral fragment supply, and ongoing reef care.

Just released research by the University of Exeter, published in Current Biology, reveals that within four years, the coral cover, colony size, and reef carbonate budget have tripled, equating the restored reefs’ growth rate with that of undamaged ones. Dr. Ines Lange, lead author on the study, from the University of Exeter highlighted that, “The speed of recovery we saw is incredible. While reef restoration cannot solve the problem that reefs are severely threatened by climate change, it shows that active management actions can help to boost the resilience of specific reefs, and bring back important functions that are critical for marine life and local communities.”

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