Science 3 min read

Reviving Dead Coral Reefs Using Underwater Loudspeakers

Martin Maun /

Martin Maun /

In an attempt to revive dead coral reefs, a joint team of researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom has used underwater speakers to lure fish back to them.

The unorthodox method called “acoustic enrichment” was tested on the Great Barrier Reef located along the east coast of Queensland, Australia. The area is known to be the largest coral reef system in the world, spanning 2,300 kilometers long, with an area of 344,400 sq. Km.

Climate change-induced bleaching since 2016 has already killed half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Following the said mass coral bleaching event, researchers found an 89 percent drop in new corals.

Scientists, private organizations, and the Australian government have tried different approaches to save the Great Barrier Reef. Some of these efforts include 3D-printing structures out of dead coral reefs and using an undersea robot to deliver coral babies.

However, this is the first time that acoustic enrichment has been tried to help revive the dying coral reef system.

Reviving Dead Coral Reefs

Using underwater loudspeakers, the researchers mimicked the “noise” produced by healthy coral reefs to attract marine animals. Steve Simpson, a co-author of the study from the University of Exeter in the U.K., explained:

“Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places – the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape. Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they’re looking for a place to settle. Reefs become ghostly quiet when they are degraded, as the shrimps and fish disappear, but by using loudspeakers to restore this lost soundscape, we can attract young fish back again.”

Following the experiment, the researchers found that the number of fish returning to the experimental dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef doubled, increasing the number of marine species present in the site by 50 percent.

Prof. Andy Radford, also a co-author of the study from the University of Bristol, added:

“Acoustic enrichment is a promising technique for management on a local basis. If combined with habitat restoration and other conservation measures, rebuilding fish communities in this manner might accelerate ecosystem recovery. However, we still need to tackle a host of other threats including climate change, overfishing, and water pollution in order to protect these fragile ecosystems.”

While attracting fish back to dead coral reefs won’t bring the latter back to life instantly, the Australian Institute of Marine Science fish biologist Dr. Mark Meekan believes that it’s a huge step toward that goal.

“Of course, attracting fish to a dead reef won’t bring it back to life automatically, but recovery is underpinned by fish that clean the reef and create space for corals to regrow,” Meekan said.

Read More: Floating Pumice Raft Could Help Save The Great Barrier Reef

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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