Ecological Processes Can
Also Be Domesticated
During the 1970ís Walter Adey and his team of student researchers studied high solar energy capture on Caribbean coral reefs. They found that most of the primary productivity occurred
in the algal turfs growing on dead coral. This
theory was tested by growing algal turfs on
plastic screens and mimicking the grazing of
parrot fish, snails and urchins by removing and
scraping the algal biomass from the screens
once per week. A field aquaculture process for
herbivorous crabs was developed from this
When these screens were taken into the
laboratory, and wave surge and current applied
in a well-lighted trough, it was possible to
reproduce the high levels of light capture and
production seen in the wild and eventually use
the device in a self-seeding process to control
water quality in coral reef aquaria.
Thus was born the algal turf scrubber, a mimicry
of an ecological process in an engineered
environment. Most aquatic environments have
similar algal turf species, adapted to localized
high energy situations, that can become
dominant given the engineered ATS environment.
Algal turfs growing on test screens in tropical
waters at 3-6 ppb Nitrogen.
Harvesting algal turf test screen from very low
nutrient waters in a tropical reef lagoon.