Marine scientists take to using LEGO bricks to help rebuild coral reefs in Singapore

LEGO bricks are being used by scientists in Singapore to help rebuild coral reefs.

Following decades of coral reef decline due to pollution and land reclamation, Singapore, which is home to a third of the world’s coral reefs, has turned to LEGO bricks as part of its reef restoration programme at the St John’s island National Marine Lab.

In a makeshift saltwater nursery located on St John’s island, rows of saltwater tanks are filled with coral fragments, barnacles, sea squirts, giant clams, and marine invertebrates like sea urchins and sea cucumbers — all the makings of a new reef.  

The research teams scour the reefs for breakaway pieces of coral. They then attach these fragments to LEGO pieces attached to string, and leave them in lab aquariums where they would grow. When the corals have grown and are ready to return to the ocean, the LEGO bricks will be removed and reused for other future projects.

Neo Mei Lin, a marine biologist and senior research fellow from the National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, said: “The LEGO bricks have been very useful for our research and experiments in helping us to grow out small coral fragments in our aquarium nurseries before we transplant the coral back into the sea.

“We needed to create flat and stable surfaces for the animals to rest on. Detachable LEGO bricks proved very useful in helping us to hold corals and giant clams in place.”

The National University of Singapore’s reef restoration project is expected to take years due to complexities surrounding coral and its slow growth rate. 

Jani Tanzil, a marine scientist at National University of Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, added: “The culturing and restoration of coral is not a one-off thing. Growing them out takes a very, very long time. Some of the corals in our tanks have been there for years and have been fragmented again and again.” 

Image Credit: Wallace Woon

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living

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