Loudspeakers are bringing fish back to coral reefs

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef

An experiment was conducted in Australia's northern Great Barrier Reef, which has been devastated by human-led climate change in recent decades. The speakers played recordings of the sounds of a healthy reef.

The researchers found that twice as many fish came to and stayed near the dead plots where the speakers were functioning than those with no sound plays.

Gordon pointed out that fish are essential for coral reefs to function as healthy ecosystems.

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. This technique works by reproducing the sounds which get lost when the reefs start to degrade. "Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they're looking for a place to settle", Simpson added.

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. But coral reef healing is underpinned by fish that clean the reef and create space for corals to regrow, he said.

"It is very important to be realistic about this - this is potentially a useful tool for attracting fish towards areas of degraded habitat but it is not a way of solving the coral reef crisis; it is not a way of bringing back a whole reef to life on its own", he said.

This increased diversity of species included in all sections of the food chain, including plant eaters, plankton eaters predators eating fish and creatures that feast on decaying plant and animal matter.


Coral reefs are among the many victims-in-the-making of climate change, but new research offers an ingenious approach for healing them.

Why do healthy coral sounds make a difference?

'Acoustic enrichment is a promising technique for management on a local basis, ' said. Those fish are a key part of the reef ecosystem. Steve Simpson, a senior author on the study, said in a statement released by the University of Exeter.

"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".

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

According to a study published earlier this year, baby coral in the Great Barrier Reef have declined by 89% due to mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017. Such bleaching events - which occur when the nutrient-rich and color-providing algae that live in corals are expelled because of heat stress - are occurring four times as frequently as they did in the 1980s, as The Washington Post has reported.

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