Innovation

Scientists Use Sound To Help Save Coral Reefs

The method could help revive reefs around the world.

Scientists used sound to try to coax fish back to dying coral reefs — and it worked.
 
The team from UK and Australia used a process called “acoustic enrichment” to entice the fish back to the reefs. The process involves replicating the sounds that healthy coral reefs make, using underwater loudspeakers.
 
"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. Juvenile fish hone in on these sounds when they're looking for a place to settle," one of the study’s authors, Steve Simpson, explained. "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."
 
Because of rising water temperatures and environmental damage, coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef where the study took place, are experiencing “bleaching.” When temperatures rise, coral expels the algae living inside it, which turns it white. While this doesn’t necessarily kill the coral, it does make it more vulnerable to what’s around it.
 
However, using acoustic enrichment, the scientists were able to double the total number of fish in the area and increased the number of species present by 50%.
 
“If combined with habitat restoration and other conservation measures, rebuilding fish communities in this manner might accelerate ecosystem recovery,” said Professor Andy Radford, another author of the study.