Researchers Found A Way To Restore Damaged Reefs With Music

Researchers Found A Way To Restore Damaged Reefs With Music

Who hates music? Everyone loves music, just like we love breathing. Music is indeed life for us, and many of us just cannot put our feelings to anything we do without it. You might be listening to some music while reading this article too because it makes you feel good.

Music indeed has its phycological effect and can greatly affect our mood. That’s why we love to listen to good music anywhere anytime. But apparently, it is not only us who love to listen to ‘music’. Researchers found that marine creatures do love it too.

Of course, our taste in music and theirs are different, but the point is that underwater ‘music’ can really bring life to the ecosystem. In this case, we are literally talking about bringing back to life dying creatures with music. How can?

Find out more about what scientists in United Kingdom and Australia are working on with underwater music in this article.

The Music In Ghostly Place

Moofushi_bleached_corals (wikimedia commons)

A group of researchers from Australia’s James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science, United Kingdom’s University of Exeter, and University of Bristol conducted a joint study with a mission to revive dying coral reefs.

In the study, they use a method called “acoustic enrichment”, or basically playing ‘fish music’ to underwater creatures. The music is not like our music, but just simply the sounds of active and living coral ecosystem.

While healthy coral reefs are noisy, degraded coral reefs are silent. “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,” Steve Simpson, marine biologist from University of Exeter, said.

This is the point in playing underwater ‘music’. To make degraded coral reefs feels like healthy and active ecosystem once again, the researchers chose to hold a party in there. Pretty similar to hosting a party in a haunted house, but in this case the ghosts are revived back to life.

“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,” Simpson added.

Come To Dance

heal damaged reef with music (wikimedia commons)

Did the party invitation work out? I surely did. As mentioned above, young fish that are highly dependent on coral reefs for protection and food came along. Well, just like human, young fish love partying with loud music.

The experiment was conducted on over 30 patches of degraded reefs in northern Great Barrier Reef. Based on the result of the study, broadcasting healthy reef sound apparently was able to increase the number of fish species in the area by 50%. Not only it makes current fish stay, it also invites more fish.

“When you degrade a reef, it starts to sound and smell different, which has an impact on the recruitment of new inhabitants to settle into those reefs,” Bob Wong from Melbourne’s Monash University, told Vice.

“But this exciting and promising piece of research shows that you can actually playback sounds of a healthy reef and it can help to attract recruitment of animals to these degraded habitats,” the professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology continued.

After 40 days of ‘partying’, the researchers also found that the number of fish coming to acoustically enriched reefs grew into double its original number. In addition to that, the number of species richness also grew dramatically.

The Tickets Of The Show

Bright_Majestic_Red_(wikimedia commons)

The party is not free, actually. There is a price that the fish have to pay to make the party going, but this is such a cheap price for a Project X. According to Tim Gordon, marine biologist from the University of Exeter, the price is simply paid by the presence of the fish.

“Fish are crucial for coral reefs to function as healthy ecosystems. 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,” Gordon said.

The presence of fish, and the diversity of species, simply helps the ecosystem to jumpstart an ongoing natural cycle from zero. We know that each species of fish plays different role in the ecosystem, and aquatic ecosystem is a complicated one.

Just like what researchers expected, the fish simply re-spark the fire which once went out, all thanks to the ‘music’ played by the researchers. However, to leave the reefs alone without playing the music, researchers suggest that there is still a long road ahead. Let alone expecting it to be back to full life like it once was.

“Acoustic enrichment is a promising technique for management on a local basis. However, we still need to tackle a host of other threats including climate change, overfishing and water pollution, in order to protect these fragile ecosystems,” said Andy Radford, professor in behavioral ecology at the University of Bristol who also contributed to the study.

Evil Neighbor


Well, just like we all know that there will always be a nosy and uncool neighbor, this underwater party has one too. The neighbor from hell is us, human. We don’t disturb the party by calling police or cutting the power off. We do it by making it a competition.

In this case, we do it by destroying the nature for our own convenience. Our daily activities result in climate change and ocean acidification. Those are the reasons why the reefs are dying in the first place, and we keep on doing it while the reefs are trying to heal.

Even the reefs are partying hard and recovering well with music, the disturbance we cause still takes its toll on them. We need to be a good neighbor and let them party hard while they enjoy it because that’s what we actually need to recover coral reefs.

“A lot of reefs around the world are facing increasing pressures because of human activities, ranging from overharvesting of commercially important species right through to the potential impacts of climate change,” said Tim Gordon.

“Obviously we need to put in place effective measures to deal with those kinds of things. Otherwise recruiting fish and other organisms back to a reef is futile,” he continued.


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