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Fish songs are proof of coral restoration success

Thousands of square meters of corals are currently being grown on previously destroyed coral reefs in central Indonesia. Until recently, it has not been clear whether these new corals can revive the local reef ecosystem.

However, a new study led by the University of Exeter has identified a diverse soundscape emerging from these restored coral reefs. According to the scientists, this rich array of whoops, croaks, raspberries, foghorns, and growls, are clear signs that the ecosystem is recovering. 

“Restoration projects can be successful at growing coral, but that’s only part of the ecosystem,” said study lead author Dr. Tim Lamont, a researcher at the University of Exeter and the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project. “This study provides exciting evidence that restoration really works for the other reef creatures too – by listening to the reefs, we’ve documented the return of a diverse range of animals.” 

The scientists used acoustic recordings taken in 2018 and 2019 as part of the monitoring program for the restoration of central Indonesia’s coral reefs, which involved the use of hexagonal metal frames called “Reef Stars” that were seeded with coral and laid over a large area in order to stabilize loose rubble and initiate rapid coral growth.

“We have been restoring and monitoring these reefs here in Indonesia for many years. Now it is amazing to see more and more evidence that our work is helping the reefs come back to life,” said study co-author Mochyudho Prasetya, a researcher in the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Project. 

“When the soundscape comes back like this, the reef has a better chance of becoming self-sustaining because those sounds attract more animals that maintain and diversify reef populations,” explained study co-author Professor David Smith, a marine scientist at the University of Exeter.

However, there are multiple threats that coral reefs are currently facing all over the world, including climate change and water pollution, which must be urgently addressed in order to offer long-term protection to these vital ecosystems.

“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 worldwide,” Dr. Lamont concluded.

The study is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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