Innovations That Matter

The underwater speakers could help attract fish to the reefs | Photo source Steve Simpson

Recreating healthy soundscapes attracts fish to damaged coral reefs

Science

Researchers tested acoustic enrichment on parts of Australia’s devastated Great Barrier Reef

Spotted: An international team of researchers tested acoustic enrichment on parts of Australia’s devastated Great Barrier Reef. During the 40-day study, where underwater speakers played healthy reef sounds, double the number of fish than normal arrived at the reef, with a large diversity of species, including herbivores, planktivores and predatory piscivores. Degraded coral reefs are very quiet, so when young fish are navigating from open ocean to a safe space, they don’t always realise the reefs are there. The vibrations of a healthy reef seem to also play a role in attracting coral larvae.

The team consisted of scientists from the UK universities of Exeter and Bristol, Australia’s James Cook University, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. With more than one-fifth of the world’s coral reefs either lost or severely damaged, time is crucial in the race to save them. Based on the speed in which fish approached the formerly deserted, heavily damaged reefs, acoustic enrichment could play an important role in kickstarting the conservation of such ecosystems.

As more fish move to the area, the general healthy noise levels increase and sea life living near the reefs may move in, thus further expanding the growth of the region. Scientists caution that, as exciting as this work is, worldwide conservation efforts must continue to increase, for long-term ecosystem recovery.

Other innovations Springwise has spotted that are helping to care for wild animals include facial recognition technology which is being used to identify endangered primates and fake rhino horns made from silk and horsehair that is designed to fool poachers. 

Email: S.Simpson@exeter.ac.uk

Website: biosciences.exeter.ac.uk

Contact: biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/contact

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