(RNN) – Minecraft, an immersive computer game in which players use blocks to build the world they inhabit, is now trying to build something in the real world.
The makers of the game are using a new ocean update – which will be the first to give players a chance to focus on building underwater worlds – to promote rebuilding actual corals.
The game’s website announced the initiative, the Coral Crafters regrowth project, on Tuesday.
Developers are planning six Biorock installations, fixtures placed in ocean waters around which new reefs can grow. They are said to facilitate far quicker growth than natural reef processes.
They intend to put them off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico.
Biorock structures can be arranged in elaborate designs, and Minecraft’s site said three of its fixtures will be fashioned to look like two of its iconic block characters, Alex and Steve, as well as a sea turtle.
The other three will be designed by popular YouTubers who play the game.
Reefs are collections of small marine animals called polyps, which come to host the algae that gives them their fantastic colors in a symbiotic relationship.
According to a recently-updated post on the website for Columbia University’s Earth Institute, 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs face environmental risk and a quarter are already permanently damaged.
Citing a report by the World Resources Institute, 90 percent of coral reefs could be in danger by 2030, and possibly all of them by mid-century.
Reefs are one of the most important habitats for marine species. Fishing and pollution have long threatened them, and now warming waters are frequently resulting in what’s called coral bleaching. That process robs them of their rich colors, and more seriously can lead to disease, reproductive issues and death.
A report published in the journal Nature this week notes that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest and most famous reef, lost a third of its corals in a bleaching event in 2016. The lead author of the report, Terry Hughes, told The Atlantic that initial research indicates a heat wave last year triggered another bleaching, and the reef has now lost half its corals since 2015.
“We can do something about this – with YOUR help!” the Minecraft post says.