Kleindienst is focused on building a sustainable island destination on The Heart of Europe and a few months ago, we went out to sea to see the project. The commitment to protecting the environment is evident in many aspects of the construction and final design and has driven innovation that is world-class. Keeping the environment in mind, Kleindienst tells us it is committed create a destination with a lasting legacy for future generations.
Dr. Adrian, Marine Biologist in charge of Kleindienst Marine Life Science Centre tells us more about the project:
Let us focus on the introduction of fragmentation techniques being deployed at The Heart Of Europe (THOE). Could you please explain what exactly this is and how this would contribute towards the ocean, climate and/or environment?
Coral fragmentation is the process of dividing a coral colony into several pieces. As corals are colonial organisms, we are able to fragment them to increase the number of corals. A larger piece of coral is cut into smaller pieces using a specialised ‘wet’ bandsaw, this prevents the loss of live coral tissue. The small pieces are glued to ceramic plugs and placed in aquariums. In the aquariums we are able to maintain optimal water parameters as well as lighting and food for the small pieces of coral allowing them to grow rapidly and prevent losses. Once the corals have reached a certain size they are acclimatized and placed onto ‘in situ’ coral nurseries to continue developing. After about one year, they will be ready to be fragmented again or seeded on the artificial reefs.
The main benefits of coral fragmentation is to increase the number of corals without having to harvest from wild populations. With coral reefs being under pressure globally from climate change and other anthropogenic impacts, establishing coral reefs will add to the conservation of marine environments and benefit the entire ecosystem.
Could you also describe the efforts taken to transform the land level environment and surrounding marine systems?
A number of efforts are made on land to ensure there is no erosion as well as preventing any discharges into the marine environment including from the landscaping.
A number of beaches are being established and a number of structural supporting structures developed to attain depths optimal for coral growth (6-7m). Artificial reefs including a number of designs will be placed on the sandy substrate to allow benthic organisms to colonise, provide habitat for fish and for coral fragments to be attached.
We also aim to establish oyster beds and seagrass meadows to increase the habitat types and add to the diversity of the overall marine environment.
Tell us about the seahorses – we understand 500 of them will live in aquaria. What will their future hold and how is this going to help the marine environment and indeed the future of that little bit of the ocean?
In our current aquariums we have several adult seahorses that were rescued from areas that were impacted by construction. We successfully had one pair breed, producing around 500 seahorse fry. Seahorse fry have to constantly feed on live prey and at the time felt we could not produce sufficient live food so the fry were released into a fish nursery area around our coral nursery were sufficient food and shelter was available.
As part of this development we will have an aquarium feature in the Portofino Hotel consisting of 514 tanks. These display tanks will able be used for the coral fragments and to breed local indigenous species especially those of conservation concern. These fish and corals will be released on the artificial reefs to help establish a healthy, vibrant and diverse marine ecosystem.
A little bit about you Dr Evans, what inspired you to base your project here in Dubai? How did you join THOE team and why? What was the brief? Any challenges?
I have always been passionate about the natural environment especially the marine environment. As a diver, as soon as you go below the surface it is a completely different and exciting environment.
After completing my PhD, I heard about this opportunity at Kleindienst and The Heart Of Europe project through a mutual friend. As soon as I heard about it I was excited to join as this project is committed to making a significant contribution to the conservation of the marine environment not only around the islands but for the UAE. It is also my passion to be able to share the wonders of the underwater environment to many people that have not experienced this before.
My main responsibility at The Heart Of Europe was to manage and maintain the coral nursery while setting up the coral fragmentation facility and starting this process. I also oversee the design, construction and implementation of the artificial reefs.
The waters in the Arabian Gulf pose challenges due to the high salinity and water temperatures but luckily the indigenous species are adapted to them. As construction is still ongoing we have to manage sedimentation especially around the coral nurseries and this can be an added stress to the live corals.