Marine technology has a large potential to aid in the restoration of biodiversity. Some technology, like the gliders described below, can help to collect data that can aid in the remediation of environmentally threatening human errors. Other technologies, like the Jellyfish filter, can help prevent pollutants from entering and damaging ecosystems. Additionally, technology with broad implications – like solar power generating bacteria – can be developed from existing marine resources. Case studies of these particular technologies are presented below. These descriptions are meant to merely offer a subset of green marine technological potential. The exploration of pertinent case studies is followed by a section of recommendations on the further development of green marine technology.
Oil spills pose a large threat to marine biodiversity. Oil can suffocate wildlife by blocking air passageways. Oil can also affect the functioning of sensory organs, and damage an organism’s ability to fend for itself. It also induces hypothermia in certain animals by effectively reducing the insulation provided by fur (Leifert, 2010). Oil affects the immune system of marine animals by causing organ damage. This leaves affected animals particularly susceptible to infection (Leifert, 2010). Furthermore, oil spills indirectly cause “decreased growth rates, reduced fecundity and higher mortality rates for larvae. Animals that are not themselves directly affected can suffer or die for lack of prey, when the latter has been decimated by oil.” (Liefert, 2010).
Marine gliders, a type of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), can help combat this problem by providing valuable information about oil spills. The information recorded by the glider can then be used to direct clean-up efforts. The gliders “carry sensors to measure everything from water temperature to organic material that could mark the presence of dissolved oil” (Pappas, 2010). This not only provides time-expedient data regarding the spill, but provides information about the nature of the impact that can be used to determine the appropriateness of various clean-up methods. The data can also be “entered into models to predict the movements of ocean currents — and of the spreading oil slicks” (Pappas, 2010).
For instance, the Deepwater Horizons oil spill in 2010 leaked 4.9 billion barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (Repanich, 2010). According to the National Wildlife Federation, this may have reduced “the number of juvenile Bluefin produced in 2010 by 20 percent”, increased by fivefold the number of stranded dolphins, caused the death of about pelicans, and caused hugely increased rates of sea turtle death (National Wildlife Federation, 2011). Gliders can be used to track oil damage and thus aid in the reduction of these effects.
The Jellyfish filtration system, for which Imbrium has a patent pending, is “an engineered stormwater quality treatment technology featuring unique membrane filtration in a compact stand-alone treatment system that removes a high level and wide variety of storm water pollutants. Exceptional pollutant removal is achieved at high treatment flow rates with minimal head loss and low maintenance costs” (“Jellyfish Filter”).
The filter works to ensure that harmful chemicals do not enter bodies of water through storm water. A system was installed successfully at the Federal Marine Terminals (FMT) in Thorold, Ontario (Green Marine, 2011). The FMT are located near a coke pile (a collection of carbon resulting from oil refinery), and the Jellyfish system collects run-off from the pile for filtration. It can filter “neutrally buoyant particles” and has an "internal pre-treatment system [that] allows for the capture of floatable hydrocarbons" (Green Marine, 2011). If these pollutants were allowed to enter the water, they could poison marine and cause chemical environmental changes that would disrupt aquatic life.
Microbial cells are a developing technology that could potentially provide renewable energy (McCormick, 2011). A study in Energy & Environmental Science examined the possibility of using “light-driven electrical power generated with biofilms grown from photosynthetic freshwater or marine species without the addition of an artificial electron-shuttling mediator” (McCormick, 2011). The group was successful in generating enough power to run a digital clock (McCormick, 2011).
This research marks potential in marine green energy sources. A shift to the utilization of such energy sources would lessen the need to use environmentally harmful fuels. The widespread use of such fuels emits pollutants that cause irrevocable damage to a wide array of ecosystems and severely threaten the species that live in these damaged ecosystems. Further exploring such technology could help mitigate the detrimental effects of this pollution on biodiversity.
Because of the potential of such technology to aid in bioremediation, the International Committee on Biodiversity (ICB) will allocate funding to teams conducting relevant studies in green marine technology. The forum of the ICB will be used to share, develop, and aid in the funding of pertinent technologies.
There is variation in the application breadths of the various types of marine technology. Some technologies, like the gliders, seem to be most useful during following times of crises. Others, like the storm water filter and the generating bacteria, are designed more for long-term uses. It is important to develop all aspects of marine technology. Crises intervention technology should be ready for use immediately following a relevant crisis and other forms of technology should be ready for implementation as soon as possible. Furthermore, the development of crisis intervention technology may yield other novel uses in the future.
The development of marine technology has potential economic benefits. For instance, the introduction of solar-power generating to the booming energy market could prove to be extremely profitable. Such profit incentives can also be used to induce the development of bio-remediating technology.
Educational outreach programs will also be developed that encourage scholars and potential scholars to develop an interest in this field. This interest could be used to sustain and expedite progress in the creation of and improvement of marine technology.