Sound Machines Could Help Monitor Health of Coral Reefs


An EAR on the reef in Kimbe Bay. Credit: Mark Eakin, NOAA via Nature Conservancy

Putting EARs in the water among the bustling life of coral reefs could help us monitor the health of coral reefs around the worlds. EAR is an Ecological Acoustic Recorder, a device developed by NOAA and the University of Hawaii, listens in on the sounds of coral reefs and helps determine the overall health and changing status of reefs. It looks to be a promising technology, and the first one to be deployed in the Coral Triangle has just been installed. Alison Green, senior marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy, writes, "Preliminary evidence suggests that these EARs may provide an exciting new technology for monitoring coral reefs around the clock and throughout the year. Do healthy reefs sound different than stressed reefs? If so, we may be able to use these devices to monitor coral reefs using sound to augment less frequent underwater visual censuses by divers."

It seems odd that listening to coral reef sounds might help determine how healthy they are. But in conjunction with visuals, it could be a very practical tool. The Coral Triangle is an ideal place for these devices to be put in to use, should they work, because it is home to the most diverse range of coral species on earth. This deployment, along with the many others placed around the globe, could help scientists determine whether EARs in the reefs will provide an effective monitoring method for coral reefs in the future.

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Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Conservation | Coral Reefs | Oceans