Coral reefs are some of the most vulnerable ecosystems on earth, and due to the climate crisis are declining at an increasing pace. But what if there were solutions that could help monitor and preserve these ecosystems, and even bring damaged reefs back to life?
We have been placing hydrophones — microphones designed to be used underwater — on coral reefs around the world, including in marine protected areas. These devices record the sounds of marine life, providing new understanding on the health, biodiversity and activity of animals in these precious habitats. New research has found that when played back using underwater speakers in damaged habitats, these sounds can even be used to call in new recruits – which is why our project is called “Calling in our Corals.”
Through this new platform, we are now inviting the public to listen to our recordings – taken from 10 reefs from countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, the U.S., Panama or Sweden – and help build valuable data on the health of these reefs. Working closely with Google Arts & Culture, this project will take a valuable leap in accelerating this bioacoustic mission.
Coral reefs are surprisingly noisy places, but where they are damaged or overfished, they become quieter due to the lack of marine life. In some locations, our research involves placing sound recorders inside marine protected areas (where there is no fishing) and in nearby fished areas for comparison, to listen in on the benefits of protection. In other locations, we are comparing sites that have declined due to overfishing and poor water quality with those where we are actively restoring coral reefs by replanting corals and rebuilding habitats.