Researchers lure fish to great barrier reef using underwater speakers

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef

Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef

Scientists have reportedly discovered a new tool that could help with coral reef restoration efforts.

Over the course of six weeks, researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia played audio recordings over speakers installed underwater at dead patches found in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

A team from universities in the United Kingdom and Australia placed underwater loudspeakers in the Great Barrier Reef. It may sound a bit like a bait-and-switch, but previous research has shown that one way to help reefs that are under duress is to encourage diverse and abundant fish populations, which can help counteract the downward spiral that ultimately leads to reef death. The new technique generates sounds that are lost when reefs are quietened by degradation.

The team says that the healthy coral reefs are "remarkably noisy places", the crackle of snapping shrimp, whoops of grunt fish, and other sounds combine to form a biological soundscape. The different groups of fish at the reef provide a different function for the reef and are required for a healthy ecosystem. "Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they're looking for a place to settle", wrote senior author and University of Exeter marine biology professor Stephen Simpson. When reefs are degraded, they become ghostly quiet, and shrimps and fish disappear. Not only did the number of fish double, but the number of species increased by 50 percent, the researchers added.

Fish biologist Dr Mark Meekan, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science added: "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".

All parts of the food chain were attracted to the reefs, including herbivores, detritivores, planktivores and predatory piscivores, the researchers found.

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