Symphony of the Seas: The Dying Sounds of Coral Reefs
In 1956, French oceanographers Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle created a documentary exploring the Earth’s vast oceans – Le Monde de Silence, or, A Silent World. However, contrary to the name of the film, research has shown us that the ocean’s coral reefs are some of the noisiest ecosystems on the planet. Sea life uses these sounds in order to find their way home and navigate their underwater journeys. Unfortunately, these sounds are beginning to die.
What Makes these sounds?
According to Dr. Craig Radford at the University of Auckland, the sounds from reefs come from a wide variety of ocean animals. In New Zealand, a sea urchin produces gurgling sounds during its feeding times. Snapping shrimp are also responsible for clicking noises from their claws closing together rapidly. You can easily hear Gurnard fish emitting a low growl or groan. These animals are most active during dusk, where sounds from reefs are loudest.
What Exactly Does it Sound Like?
Below you can listen to what a healthy reef is supposed to sound like. This snippet was taken in the Philippines by Julius Piercy. Listen here or below.
On the other hand is what a dying, unhealthy reef sounds like. Julius Percy took this sound snippet while in the Phillipines. Listen here or below.
What is Threatening these sounds?
We are all a little too familiar with pollution. It litters our streets, our seas, and landscapes in the form of empty plastic bottles and torn plastic bags. However, it can also exist as noise beneath out ocean’s surface. Motor boats, large sea vessels, and even airplanes cause loud disturbances underwater with their engines’ sounds. These noises can hinder sea life’s communication, force them to change their habits, and even cause significant stress. All of these factors can contribute to sea life moving out of their homes, where the reef will then slowly die off. Every other negative impact on the ocean will also drive away sea life, such as ocean acidification, overfishing, habitat destruction, and bycatch.
What Can we do?
Author and scientist Aran Mooney suggested that broadcasting these sounds may attract life back to bleached coral reefs. However, reducing ocean pollution and the habitat destruction of all sea creatures is most likely the best way to start before we implement Mooney’s method. Thankfully, there are easy, concrete steps you can take. Being extra mindful of your carbon footprint and how much energy you consume can help lessen your environmental impact on the ocean. Making safe, sustainable choices regarding the products you buy and food you consume is also a major area to be conscious of. Keep an eye out for products that don’t exploit marine life, or eventually find their way into the ocean. If you want to make greater changes, reach out to others in your community. Organize volunteer work for beach cleanups or help inform others. Remember, every action counts!