Dying coral reefs could be saved by attracting fish with underwater music

Pablo Tucker
December 3, 2019

A team of researchers led by marine biologists at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom set up underwater loudspeakers to play recorded sounds of healthy reefs in an effort to lure young fish to come hang out in areas where the coral had degraded.

An worldwide team of scientists from the UK's University of Exeter and University of Bristol, and Australia's James Cook University and Australian Institute of Marine Science, say this "acoustic enrichment" could be a valuable tool in helping to restore damaged coral reefs. Those fish are a key part of the reef ecosystem. He called acoustic enrichment a promising method.

A recent study found that underwater speakers placed close to dead coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef encouraged new fish to show up and settle in. "Because of these important ecological roles, they have been described as "ecosystem engineers" of reef systems". The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found twice as many fish came to patches of dead coral, where the sounds of healthy reefs were played compared to patches which no sound is played.

But attracting fish to dead reefs won't bring them back to life automatically as recovery will begin when the fish start cleaning the reefs and create space for corals to regrow, said Mark Meekan of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, one of the researchers.


In line with the examine, the variety of species current within the reef patches the place wholesome sounds have been performed elevated by 50 % over the opposite patches.

He also suggested that further research would be needed, where the reefs are monitored for a longer period, to truly understand how the loudspeakers influenced the fish.

Reefs become quiet when they are damaged as shrimps and fish disappear but using loudspeakers to play out this noise can attract young fish back again. The process can be used to increase fish population that will subsequently help restore degraded regions of a reef. If mixed with habitat restoration and varied conservation measures, rebuilding fish communities in this form would perhaps well well drag ecosystem recovery.

Introducing fish into areas of decaying underwater vegetation is by no means the only step in the revitalization of the ocean's reefs, but it is a critical first step in the process.


Mr Gordon said although attracting fish to damaged reefs won't save them, using "acoustic enrichment" will give scientists the tools to help fight to save the damaged ecosystems.

"However, we still need to tackle a host of other threats including climate change, overfishing and water pollution in order to protect these fragile ecosystems", said Andy Radford, study co-author from the University of Bristol in the UK.

"From local management innovations to global political action, we need meaningful progress at all levels to paint a better future for reefs worldwide".


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