Six artificial reefs printed with a giant 3D-printer using natural products (sand of Dolomite and volcanic ash) have been immersed on November 02 in the Larvotto marine protected area in Monaco. This is a first in the Mediterranean and worldwide by the size of printed reefs ( 2,500 kilos each). This innovative project is supported by the Boskalis Company and the ECOMERS laboratory with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and in partnership with the Association Monégasque pour la Protection de la Nature (Manager of Marine Protected Areas of Monaco).
The use of a 3D printer allow to mimic the complexity of the natural environment and can therefore facilitate the restoration of ecosystems by creating suitable habitats for fish and macroinvertebrates.
Significant studies have been carried out by Boskalis to design a material that meets several requirements: water resistance, strength, compatibility with 3D printing technology and above all a lack of harmful effect on the environment.
In parallel, research programs were launched in our laboratory by Patrice Francour and Elisabeth Riera to select the most favourable substrates for subsequent colonization by fauna and flora or to develop a method for accurately measuring the structural complexity of artificial reefs.
Long-term monitoring of the reefs immersed in the Larvotto Marine Protected Area will be rapidly implemented (ECOMERS and AMPN) to follow the colonization of the reefs. In the heart of the Larvotto Marine Protected Area, a natural laboratory for scientists, this program will also promote the development of innovative methods of monitoring. The experience gained can thus be put at the service of marine protected area managers who would like to optimize the restoration of degraded land by human activities.