How a company is turning wildlife destroyers into comfy marine homes
An Israeli startup figured out how to make concrete structures that are good for the environment.
40 percent of the world lives on coasts. In the U.S., for instance, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all along the shore. So people build a ton of piers, ports and other seaside structures, many of which are devastating for marine life.
“These structures destroy the natural habitats, replacing natural reefs with a desert of concrete. If anything grows on it at all, it’s an invasive, harmful species,” explains Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, an Israeli zoologist who studied at Tel Aviv University.
That's why Perkol-Finkel came up with a new way to help the environment. She started ECOncrete, a business that makes concrete building blocks, walls, tide pools and other products designed specifically to be friendly to marine life. For instance, ECOncrete walls aren't just flat slabs of concrete. They have complicated surfaces (imagine a cheesecloth made of concrete) that make it easier for fish to hide in and coral to build on.
Studies found that ECOncrete products really work. One study showed that biodiversity doubled when scientists tested one ECOncrete product, an "armoring unit," against the industry standard.
“We verified that ECOncrete is significantly better than what is out there today, and we published the results of our studies in peer-reviewed journals,” Perkol-Finkel said.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, these products can save money. Since ECOncrete structures encourage marine life, oysters and coral take up residence in them, building strong, calcium surfaces that actually make concrete walls stronger.
These products have been tried out around the world, in places like New York City's East River, Israel's Red Sea and the Caribbean.
"Our concept was to take all the infrastructure already built and use it as a scaffold for a reef," explained Perkol-Finkel, "something nobody’s done before now.”
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