BioBriefs LESLEY EVANS OGDEN The effective conservation and scientists must filter out their high- of the approach: “When I first started management of coral reefs, which frequency sounds and focus on the as a coral-reef biologist and I would are important centers of biodiver- lower-frequency sounds more typi- tell colleagues that we were interested sity, require monitoring changes to cally produced by fish. in using sound as a metric of coral-reef their health. Visual monitoring is However, snapping shrimp exem- health, they looked at me like I was labor intensive and costly, especially plify species that could easily be missed kind of crazy and didn’t really appre- at remote, difficult-to-access sites. on visual surveys. Incredibly cryptic, ciate what we could possibly learn.” As an alternative approach, scientists snapping shrimp hide in sponges or But over the past 15 years, the field are exploring the characterization of beneath coral, and they are difficult to has gained traction. Coral-reef acous- reef soundscapes as condition indi- see. Other secretive species that acous- tics is now a well-recognized research ces. Paralleling the use of birdsong tic listening can detect but visual sur- area, with special conference sessions in monitoring avian biodiversity and veys might miss are croakers, gobies, and many working groups formaliz- ecosystem health, scientists are hoping soldierfish, and squirrelfish, among ing it as a scientific field. Lammers, that new underwater-recording and others, explains Steve Simpson, at the Mooney, and three other scientists sound-interpretation techniques will University of Exeter, who is studying from the University of Hawai’i and the be a useful addition to the reef-moni- coral-reef acoustics in Australia, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric toring toolbox. Philippines, and elsewhere. Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Coral reefs are “pretty noisy places,” As Simpson explains, it is not only Fisheries Science Center have devel- says Aran Mooney, of the Woods humans tuning into the sounds of reefs oped and tested a micr oprocessor-based Hole Oceanographic Institution. But to infer clues about their health and ecological acoustic recorder (EAR) for before using acoustics as a monitoring habitat quality. Fish larvae grasped the long-term monitoring on coral reefs. Its tool, scientists first need to under- idea of eavesdropping on reef sounds deployment is spreading globally. stand typical coral-reef soundscapes. long before scientists did. Coral-reef Mooney, Simpson, and Lammers With the aim of characterizing spa- sounds provide a lot of information all caution that the acoustic surveying tial and temporal variation in acoustic about the community, explains Simpson. of coral reefs is still a work in prog- outputs from coral reefs, Mooney’s Baby fish returning from an initial phase ress. “Every tool has its limitations,” work has revealed fascinating patterns. of development in the plankton li sten to says Lammers, but one of the great One trend uncovered is that reefs are their habitat in deciding where to settle, strengths of acoustic monitoring is its often louder at night, with reef species something he and colleagues deter- ability to continuously monitor reefs, exhibiting dawn and dusk choruses. mined from playback experiments in even remote ones, over a period of Although this daily trend is by far the which nearly four times as many babies many years. In the future, they see it as dominant temporal signal, his team recruited to noisy versus quiet reefs. At an approach likely to be complement- has revealed that lunar, seasonal, and just a few weeks old, young fish make ary to, rather than a replacement for, annual cycles are important, too, as decisions that determine the rest of their visual coral-reef surveys. patterns to account for in designing lives—a period that might be decades— NOAA’s passive acoustics branch monitoring protocols. on the basis of the acoustics of their website aptly quotes A. A. Milne, One of the loudest and most intrigu- local environment. The human equiva- author of Winnie-the-Pooh: “Some ing members of the coral-reef choir is lent would be moving to a new city and people talk to animals. Not many listen the snapping shrimp (of the family Googling neighborhoods “to avoid the though. That’s the problem.” With Alpheidae). Large aggregations with dodgy areas,” says Simpson. Given sonic oceanic stethoscopes, that problem has specialized bubble-popping claws pro- importance in the settlement patterns begun to be solved. duce underwater sounds like popping of baby fish, Simpson is also exploring Lesley Evans Ogden is a Canadian corn. Snapping shrimp are “the bane sound playbacks as a possible restora- freelance writer–producer with a passion of our acoustic measurements,” says tion technique for d amaged reefs. for quirky science storytelling. Say hello Mooney. His work with Ashlee Lillis Marc Lammers, at the University of at www.lesleyevansogden.com or on describes them as “soundscape engi- Hawai’i at Mānoa, says that when he Twitter @ljevanso. neers.” So noisy are these invertebrates first began studying coral-reef acoustics that to assess what else is present, in 2003–2005, colleagues were skeptical doi:10.1093/biosci/bix135 48 BioScience • January 2018 / Vol. 68 No. 1 https://academic.oup.com/bioscience Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article-abstract/68/1/48/4793272 by guest on 16 March 2018
BioScience – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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