Could the Sounds of Life Revive the Great Barrier Reef?

8 months ago 2 min read
December 14, 2019
By: Colm Ashe

We’ve all heard that playing Mozart for your plants gives them life, but what if the same symphonies could restore the Great Barrier Reef? A group of scientists went to Australia and did just that, except that instead of Mozart, they played sounds recorded from life on a healthy coral reef via loudspeakers. The result? In areas with dead coral, the sounds helped in the recovery and rejuvenation of these once beautiful and vibrant corals.

According to marine biologists from the University of Exeter, the ambient sounds of healthy coral life attracted young fish to dead patches of coral reef. The fish then cleaned the reef, which helped new corals to grow.

Why are coral reefs dying?

When the temperature of the sea rises, coral expel a colorful marine algae called zooxanthellae, which lives inside the coral. This causes the coral to turn white – or to bleach. If the temperature returns to normal and the algae return, then it is possible for the corals to recover. Most recently, up to 80% of corals from parts of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia died because of bleaching. A four-fold rise!

What does a healthy living coral reef sound like?

According to experts, reefs are a pretty busy and noisy place, inhabited by a diverse variety of sea life. “The crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape,” said Steve Simpson, the paper’s author, and Exeter University marine biologist.

Of course, experts are quick to stress that attracting fish to a dead reef isn’t going to miraculously bring it back to life straight away, but it’s a helping hand towards its recovery. However, other threats, including climate change, overfishing and water pollution still need to be tackled if we are going to successfully protect fragile marine ecosystems.