Snap, crackle, pop: healthy coral reefs brimming with noise #ASA182

DENVER, May 25, 2022 – A healthy coral reef is noisy. Like a busy city, the infrastructure leads to more organisms and activity, and more background noise. Every time an invertebrate drags its hard shell over the coral, or a fish takes a bite of its food, they add to the soundscape.

Vocal fish, whales and dolphins occasionally interrupt with louder growls and cries. All in all, the hundreds of thousands of animals that live in the reef sound like hiss on the radio, or the popping, crackling and popping of a bowl of Rice Krispies when you pour milk on the cornflakes, while the coral reef is healthy. The sound changes for reefs that are not healthy, becoming quieter and less diverse.

Lauren Freeman, of the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport, will present experimental results of passive acoustic monitoring of coral reefs to get a snapshot of their health at the 182nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. The presentation, “Coral Reef & Temperate Coastal Soundscape Features Evident in Directional and Omnidirectional Passive Acoustic Time Series,” will take place May 25 at 11:35 a.m. in the eastern U.S.

Passive acoustic monitoring of coral sounds provides a long-term, non-intrusive and inexpensive way to monitor the condition of reefs around the world, threatened by humanity from fishing, pollution and climate change.

Compared to healthy reefs, degraded coral communities do not have such a rich or diverse soundscape. There are usually fewer fish calls and more high-frequency noise from algae photosynthesizing and releasing oxygen bubbles, which reverberate as they rise through the water.

“There is a natural competition between corals and macroalgae on all coral reefs. In most cases with a dying or degraded reef, the macroalgae win out and cover much more of the surface,” Freeman said. “On a pristine reef, you would see very little macroalgae and lots of herbivorous fish helping to eat the macroalgae.”

Freeman and her team deployed an acoustic array to monitor reefs off the coast of Hawaii. They compared these results with comparable data from Bermuda and New England. Interestingly, Hawaii and Bermuda both exhibited a signature evening chorus on the reef, with noise levels increasing just before sunset. The New England Reef underwent similar changes near dusk.

“Almost every time I conduct an experiment, we learn more about the complexities and intricacies of biological environmental sounds,” Freeman says. “It’s so exciting to keep discovering more about ocean ecosystems.”

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#Snap #crackle #pop #healthy #coral #reefs #brimming #noise #ASA182

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