Saving coral reefs - with delicate lace

Posted on 15 April 2021.

Under threat of extinction, coral reefs may have found their savior. The artist Jérémy Gobé has developed a regeneration program... inspired by the traditional lace pattern from Puy en Velay.

When nature-inspired ideas address the climate emergency

It all started with a meeting between the plastic artist Jérémy Gobé and a discarded piece of coral in an Emmaus recycling center. Fascinated by the structure and patterns of the coral, he decided to develop his art around these marine creatures.

A few years later, a second encounter – this time with Puy en Velay lace - turned the artist's projects upside down. Jérémy Gobé was fascinated by the resemblance between the patterns seen in this 400 year old craft and those of coral. He then embarked on a rather surprising project: to regenerate coral reefs using lace from Puy-en-Velay!

Coral reefs are under serious threat from global warming. A number of studies show that globally 100% of the world’s coral reefs surface could disappear by the year 2050. This is crucial because these marine creatures host a third of all marine life, even though they represent only 0.2% of the ocean's surface area, and what’s more provide a great many ecological services (including capturing CO2). 

 

Biomimetic approach

Jérémy Gobé's solution falls within a biomimetic approach that consists of taking advantage of the similarities between the lace patterns and the corals, so that they can develop.

Lace has undeniable advantages. It is flexible, transparent, the corals can cling to it and most importantly of all it is biodegradable and dissolves in water. An important point because today, coral regeneration programs rely on supports built from concrete or plastic... which then stay on the ocean floor.

In 2018, a first test was set up with researchers from France’s National Museum of Natural History and one of the last two lace companies in Puy-en-Velay.

Many hours of work resulted in a cotton structure similar to that of a coral skeleton on which coral polyps could cling and grow.

Already, Jérémy Gobé is imagining covering the ocean floor with lace... But for the time being, the project is continuing with a test planned for this year among the coral reefs around Guadeloupe. For his part, the plastic artist is developing his Corail Artefact project to raise public awareness of the importance of preserving these fragile marine ecosystems.