Noisy Coral Reefs = Healthy Coral Reefs?


Photo: Flickr, CC
You Just Have to Listen Closely
Scientists from Exeter University and Bristol University might have just found a new way to evaluate the condition of coral reefs. It's pretty simple when you think about it: You just listen. Indeed, each reef has its own noise signature, and reefs with more corals and fish generate predictably greater levels of noise. By analyzing the sound, you can find out lots of things about both the fish and the corals.
Photo: Flickr, CC

"Lower frequency sounds provided more information on the numbers of fish living on the reef, while the intensity of higher frequency reef sounds gave an indication of coral diversity." These sounds can travel for kilometers underwater, and could be used by marine life to find coral reefs and know how healthy and hospitable they are.

This technique has the potential to allow scientists to monitor many more coral reefs while spending a lot less time and money:

The study also highlights the potential for using audio recordings to monitor the health of reefs. Usually, scientific assessment of reef health requires teams of scuba divers and huge quantities of equipment and so is costly, time consuming and difficult in remote areas. In this study, scientists dropped a cable off the side of the boat with a hydrophone (underwater recording device) attached. A two-minute recording contained enough information to distinguish between reefs. This is a very encouraging find for the development of acoustic recordings as ecological survey or monitoring tools.

This monitoring is extremely important because coral reefs are threatened by global warming (many reefs have already been bleached), and because coral ecosystems are massively productive and crucial to the good health of our already stretched oceans.

Maybe someday soon acoustic underwater surveys will be to coral reefs what satellite imagery is to the survey of ground ecosystems.

Via University of Bristol
More on Coral Reefs
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Tags: Coral Reefs | Oceans

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