Healthy coral reefs emanate a remarkable soundscape, acting as a signaling mechanism for juvenile fish who are looking for a place to settle. When reefs fade away, this rich soundscape becomes a silent dessert, depriving the dying corals of the chance to ever regenerate.

As scientists are continuously looking for ways to prevent the disappearance of these lavish ecosystems as a result of climate change, a research team has recently zeroed in on the potential of sound to do that.

After recording shrimp snapping, fish grunting and other sounds from healthy regions of the reef, the researchers played them on patches of dead coral in the Great Barrier Reef and discovered that twice as many fish arrived – and stayed – compared to equivalent patches where no sound was played. They also found the number of different types of fish – the species richness – increased by 50 percent during that time.

The researchers hope their findings may help in restoring some of the ecosystem functions to coral reefs that have suffered bleaching or been hit by cyclones or other impacts. And while it would be impossible to fit any ecologically significant number of reef patches with speakers, it may give a boost to reef sites that are identified for active recovery efforts.

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