This article appeared in the December 03, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The sounds of aquatic hope

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Staghorn coral teeming with aquatic life on Wheeler Reef, a protected zone of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

First, as my colleague noted here yesterday, the challenge of climate change is upon us. We can sleepwalk “past the point of no return” or we can choose “the path of hope,” resolve, and sustainable solutions, said the United Nations secretary general Monday.

Let’s look at one ingenious step on that path: A reef rave. 

Using sound, scientists are breathing life into dying coral reefs. In 2016 and ’17, nearly half of the Great Barrier Reef was ravaged by coral bleaching caused by higher water temperatures. And all marine life tends to abandon dying coral.

But British and Australian researchers put loudspeakers in 22 separate patches of dead coral and played audio recorded from living reefs. “Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places. ... Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they’re looking for a place to settle,” said Prof. Steve Simpson of the University of Exeter, one of the authors of a study published in Nature Communications on Friday. 

Drawn by a nightly symphony of life, the number of fish doubled over the six-week experiment. The variety of species increased by 50%. Exeter marine biologist Tim Gordon, the study’s lead author, says “acoustic enrichment” isn’t a panacea. But it can help “kick-start natural recovery processes, counteracting the damage we’re seeing on many coral reefs around the world,” Mr. Gordon said via email.

What does a community of hope sound like? 

The grunt of a cod fish. The snap of a shrimp. The whoop of a clown fish. 

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This article appeared in the December 03, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/03 edition