The ‘ingenious’ way scientists are restoring the Great Barrier Reef

A group of scientists are trying to “give new hope” to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Academics from Australia’s James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the UK’s University of Exeter and University of Bristol have determined playing sounds of a ‘healthy reef’ through loud speakers could be the key to restoring damaged coral reefs.

The group found that when they placed the speakers in heavily ravaged areas, twice as many fish came and stayed in that area compared to locations where the sounds were not played.

Australian Institute of Marine Science fish biologist Dr Mark Meekan said the recovery of a reef is reliant on fish because they clean the area, making way for regrowth.

Severe bleaching of coral has been seen throughout the world, especially in Australia's Great Barrier Reef (pictured). Source: Coral Reef Studies via AAP.

“Fish are crucial for coral reefs to function as healthy ecosystems,” Tim Gordon a PhD researcher from the University of Exeter and the lead author on the report, said in a press release.

“Boosting fish populations in this way could help to kick-start natural recovery processes, counteracting the damage we’re seeing on many coral reefs around the world.”

According to the report, there were twice as many juvenile damselfishes on reefs that were acoustically enriched over the six-week study period.

Mr Gordon said although attracting fish to damaged reefs won’t save them, using ‘acoustic enrichment’ will give scientists the tools to help fight to save the damaged ecosystems.

Climate change and local anthropogenic stressors have been blamed as the cause of damage to coral reefs around the world.

AA group of scientists have found by using sounds from a healthy reef, they can attract fish to a dying reef. Source: Greg Torda/ARC Center of Excellence via AP.

According to Professor Steve Simpson, a senior author of the report, 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,” the Professor from the the University of Exeter said.

“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.”

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