After establishing baseline dynamics of the Biosphere 2 ocean system in its current algae-dominated state, we will test novel solutions for bioremediation and reef restoration. First, we will introduce a number of herbivorous invertebrates and fish and conduct herbivore-exclusion experiments. These experiments will investigate algae—herbivore dynamics on the degraded reef and assess the impact of the herbivore community on the reef composition and function (on macro- and micro- scales). These experiments will provide critical constraints on the capacity for ecological approaches to remediating degraded reefs following disturbance(s). Depending on the success of the ecological remediation, we will then manually remove the algae and track the algal biomass removed from the system. These ecological and manual remediation efforts will facilitate the introduction of corals into the B2O to test novel methods and materials for reef restoration during Phase Two. In particular, we will capitalize on the controlled environment of the B2O to test the role of microbes (e.g., “probiotics”) in enhancing the resilience of corals transplanted during reef restoration.
In preparation for phase two, we have made significant progress in identifying grazing fish species that will fill key functional niches on the B2O reef. Furthermore, thanks to a network of colleagues in the aquaculture industry, we have developed connections for ethically-raised reef fishes (reared entirely in captivity). Over the coming months, we will build infrastructure and protocols for these fish introductions—the first since the late 1990’s! These herbivores will be released during Earth Month April 2019 “Ribbon Cutting & Release” events for the public at the Biosphere 2 Ocean. Invertebrate grazers will be released in a special event in memory of Dr. Rafe Sagarin, in which we will also hope to announce our new “Desert Seas” Sagarin Scholars Program to support future undergraduate research in the B2O.