Marine Researchers Use Sound to Revitalize Dying Reefs

Tricking fish, but for science

Coral reef
A recent experiment offers reasons for optimism regarding healing dying reefs.
Ryan McMinds/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / December 9, 2019 6:06 am

When coral reefs begin to die, it’s a process that can rapidly accelerate. Fish and other marine wildlife are less likely to flock to a reef where they can’t hear signs of a thriving ecosystem — and so an already-faltering reef can have its end hastened. And with coral reefs dying across the globe, the pressure has been on scientists to discover a way of undoing what climate change and other factors have wrought.

Now, a team of researchers working on a section of the Great Barrier Reef have discovered a promising way to stimulate dying reefs, and it’s sonic in nature.

At The Washington Post, Derek Hawkins has the story of a group of marine researchers who found an unorthodox way to attract animals back to reefs that were slowly dying: namely, convincing them that the reefs were in the peak of health. They did this by playing sounds associated with healthy reefs, which in turn convinced fish to settle there. Did it work? Let’s just say that the researchers have plenty to be excited about.

The results were promising, according to the researchers. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found twice as many fish flocked to the dead coral patches where healthy reef sounds were played compared with the patches where no sound was played.

The scientists who conducted this research pointed out that this won’t fix all of the issues caused by dying reefs, but it does make for a note of optimism at a time when the current state of the environment can feel more despairing than anything else. If this can be applied on a larger scale, it might go a long way towards making the oceans a more balanced and livable place for marine wildlife. 

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