Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Dan Mele (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Using soundscapes to heal the ocean's coral reefs

Science

Reefs that have suffered degradation could be restored by broadcasting the sound of healthy coral

Spotted: Coral reefs around the world face a host of threats, from coral bleaching and disease to direct human impact, with around 14 per cent of total coral believed to have been lost between 2009 and 2018.  

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered that reproducing the sounds of a healthy coral reef for a degraded one can help encourage coral larvae to recolonise it. The team placed groups of coral larvae in a degraded reef at 1, 5, 10, and 30 metres from an underwater speaker, designed by engineer Ben Weiss, that played recordings of a healthy reef soundscape for three nights. After that, the team observed that coral settlement rates were 1.7 times higher, on average, with the highest rates observed at five metres.  

“The fact that settlement is consistently decreasing with distance from the speaker, when all else is kept constant, is particularly important because it shows that these changes are due to the added sound and not other factors,” marine biologist at WHOI Aran Mooney said.

The innovation could be used to help restore healthy reefs in both coral nurseries and wild environments, although these would still need to be monitored to ensure the larvae continue to thrive after settlement.

Springwise has spotted other innovations looking to restore and protect coral populations, including the use of robotics and a turmeric extract.

Written By: Lauryn Berry

Email: information@whoi.edu

Website: whoi.edu

Contact: whoi.edu/directory

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