December: coral reef restoration project | News & Features

Screams, croaks, growls, raspberries and foghorns are among the sounds that demonstrate the success of a coral reef restoration project.

Thousands of square meters of corals are cultivated on previously destroyed reefs in Indonesia, but previously it was not clear whether these new corals would revive the entire reef ecosystem.

Now, a new study, led by researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of Exeter, is finding a healthy and diverse soundscape over the restored reefs.

These sounds – many of which have never been recorded before – can be used along with visual observations to monitor these vital ecosystems.

Professor Steve Simpson from the School of Biological Sciences in Bristol said: “Some of the sounds that we have recorded are really weird and new to us as scientists.

“We still have a lot to learn about what they all mean and the animals that make them. But for now, it’s amazing to be able to hear the ecosystem come to life.”

Lead author Dr Tim Lamont, University of Exeter and the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project, which restores reefs in central Indonesia, added: “Restoration projects can successfully grow coral, but that’s only part of the ecosystem. This study provides exciting evidence that restoration works for other reef creatures as well – by listening to reefs, we have documented the return of a wide range of animals. “

The soundscapes of restored reefs are not identical to those of existing healthy reefs – but the diversity of sounds is similar, suggesting a healthy and functioning ecosystem.

There was significantly more fish sounds recorded on healthy and restored reefs than on degraded reefs.

This study used acoustic recordings made in 2018 and 2019 as part of the monitoring program of the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project.

The results are positive for the project approach, in which hexagonal metal frames called ‘Reef Stars’ are strewn with coral and laid over a large area. The Reef Stars stabilize the rubble and revive the rapid growth of corals, leading to the rebirth of the wider ecosystem.

Mochyudho Prasetya, of the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project, said, “We have been restoring and monitoring these reefs here in Indonesia for many years. It is now amazing to see more and more evidence that our work is helping reefs come back to life. . “

Mars Incorporated Chief Scientist Professor David Smith added, “When the soundscape returns like this, the reef has a better chance of becoming self-sustaining because these sounds attract more animals that maintain and diversify populations of. reefs. “

Asked about the multiple threats facing coral reefs, including climate change and water pollution, Dr Lamont said, “If we do not address these broader issues, conditions for reefs will become dire. increasingly hostile and restoration will eventually become impossible.

“Our study shows that reef restoration can really work, but it’s only part of a solution that must also include rapid action on climate change and other threats to reefs around the world.”

The study was funded in part by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The article, published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology, is entitled: “The sound of recovery: the success of the restoration of coral reefs is detectable in the soundscape”.


“The Sound of Recovery: Coral Reef Restoration Success is Detectable in the Soundscape” by Dr Tim Lamont, Professor Steve Simpson et al in Journal of Applied Ecology.

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