In the Mediterranean, the sites most frequented by yachts are seeing an increasing degradation of the precious Posidonia meadows, under the influence of individual anchoring systems. The regrowth is very slow: the meadow extends horizontally only a few centimeters per year, and vertically one meter per … century. As a result, 10% of Posidonia meadows have already disappeared in recent decades.
However, these habitats are among the most productive on the planet, and of great biological diversity: although they represent less than 3% of the Mediterranean surface, 30 to 40% of species depend on them for all or part of their life cycle. They also provide a large number of ecosystem services: they support marine life, oxygenate water, fix sediments and large quantities of carbon in their root network (the “matte“), and protect the coasts from erosion by attenuating swell and forming “banks” on the beaches. Fishing resources, climate change mitigation, protection against extreme events, heritage, cultural and tourist value…: the economic value of the already-disappeared posidonia beds is estimated to ~4 billion euros per year.
The installation of permanent “ecological moorings” is an effective solution to avoid the use of individual anchors, but most of them come from the petrochemical industry and require regular maintenance to resist UV rays and fouling. The Floating Reef project aims to develop a more ecological and sustainable biomimetic mooring buoy: designed in biogenic material and 3D printed, its structure will serve as a refuge for various local species. No maintenance would then be required and each buoy could last for several decades. Eventually, several of these buoy-reefs floating above the seabed would be deployed in the same area to create an educational underwater pathway to raise public awareness of biodiversity preservation. This concept would be replicable all over the world. A scientific follow-up is also planned to measure the effectiveness of the buoys over the long term.