Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Loudspeakers Can Help Bring Degraded Reefs Back to Life, Study Shows

Science
Loudspeakers Can Help Bring Degraded Reefs Back to Life, Study Shows
A loudspeaker on a damaged reef attracts fish. Tim Gordon / University of Exeter

A team of British and Australian scientists have discovered an innovative way to help coral reefs recover from the climate crisis and other human-caused damage: loudspeakers.


A healthy fish population can help fight the degradation of coral reefs, the study's authors explained in Nature Communications Friday, but damaged reefs don't attract as many fish because they don't smell or sound like healthy reefs.

"Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places – the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape," senior author and University of Exeter professor Steve Simpson explained in a press release received by EcoWatch. "Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they're looking for a place to settle."

A loudspeaker on a coral reef. Tim Gordon / University of Exeter

So a team of researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol in the UK, and Australia's James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science spent October to December of 2017 in the Great Barrier Reef trying to see if they could replicate these healthy reef sounds in damaged environments.

The Washington Post explained their process:

At the start of fish recruitment season, when fish spawn and mature, the team built 33 experimental reef patches out of dead coral on open sand about 27 yards from the naturally occurring reef. They then fixed underwater loudspeakers to the center of the patches, angling them upward to ensure the sound was distributed evenly in all directions.

Over 40 nights, the team played recordings from a healthy reef in some of the patches. In other patches, they used dummy speakers that emitted no sounds, and they left a third group of patches untouched.

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef. Harry Harding / University of Bristol

The result? The reef patches that broadcasted the healthy reef sounds attracted double the number of fish as the other patches, and the fish species drawn to them were 50 percent more diverse. That diversity included species from every section of the food web, from plankton eaters to predators, which is important for reef health.

"Reefs become ghostly quiet when they are degraded, as the shrimps and fish disappear, but by using loudspeakers to restore this lost soundscape, we can attract young fish back again," Simpson said in the press release.

The scientists called this process "acoustic enrichment" and think it could be one tool for helping reef ecosystems recover more quickly.

"Of course, attracting fish to a dead reef won't bring it back to life automatically, but recovery is underpinned by fish that clean the reef and create space for corals to regrow," Australian Institute of Marine Science fish biologist and study author Dr. Mark Meekan said in the press release.

However, the researchers urged that it is also important to tackle reef threats like the climate crisis or overfishing directly. And in this they were backed up by scientists not involved in the study.

"Using acoustic enrichment to help recolonise degraded reefs with essential reef fish is a novel tool which can add to the reef conservation toolbox," Dr. Catherine Head of the Zoological Society of London and the University of Oxford told The Guardian. "Our biggest tool in the fight for coral reefs is the 2016 Paris climate change agreement to curb global CO2 emissions, and we must continue to put pressure on governments to fulfil this agreement alongside doing our bit to reduce our own carbon footprints."

A resident of Austin, Texas scrapes snow into a bucket to melt it into water on Feb. 19, 2021. Winter storm Uri brought historic cold weather, leaving people in the area without water as pipes broke. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

President Joe Biden is being called on to back newly reintroduced legislation that seeks to remedy the nation's drinking water injustices with boosts to infrastructure and the creation of a water trust fund.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Infants and young children may experience high phthalate levels because they often put plastic products in their mouths. Image Source / Getty Images

By Stephanie Eick

You may not realize it, but you likely encounter phthalates every day. These chemicals are found in many plastics, including food packaging, and they can migrate into food products during processing. They're in personal care products like shampoos, soaps and laundry detergents, and in the vinyl flooring in many homes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

About EcoWatch

An oil pumpjack is seen in a Texas cotton field against a backdrop of wind energy. ChrisBoswell / Getty Images

Many congressional districts with the most clean energy potential are current fossil fuel hubs, potentially reducing political barriers to a just transition away from the energy sources that cause climate change, a Brookings report says.

Read More Show Less
A sea turtle rescued from Israel's devastating oil spill. MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP via Getty Images

Rescue workers in Israel are using a surprising cure to save the sea turtles harmed by a devastating oil spill: mayonnaise!

Read More Show Less
A "digital twin of Earth." European Space Agency

As the weather grows more severe, and its damages more expensive and fatal, current weather predictions fall short in providing reliable information on Earth's rapidly changing systems.

Read More Show Less