Underwater loudspeakers can help restore coral reef

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef Credit Harry Harding /University of Bristol

The researchers found that up to twice as many fish ended up populating the reefs where these sounds were played, versus areas in similar states of decay where they were not. The underwater loudspeakers were placed along the reef and play healthy reef recordings in patches of dead coral.

Tim Gordon, the lead author of the study and another marine biologist from the University of Exeter, said the returning fish could help ecosystems "recover" and "give those degraded patches of coral a chance of new life".

One way to help restore the coral reef's natural recovery process is to boost fish populations. They also found that there was more biodiversity at these locations, with up to 50 percent more species in the mix vs. the control sites, and that the new denizens who did make their way to the reefs with the artificial sounds tended to set up to stay. The different groups of fish at the reef provide a different function for the reef and are required for a healthy ecosystem.

"Healthy coral reefs are remarkably loud places".

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 team says that juvenile fish hone in on those sounds where looking for a place to settle.

The researchers said that the diversity included species from all sections of the food web: herbivores, detritivores, planktivores, and predatory piscivores.

Study co-author Professor Andy Radford, of Bristol University, said: "Acoustic enrichment is a promising technique for management on a local basis".

Scientists may have uncovered a cool way of bringing fish back to coral reefs around the world.

"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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