Coral reef species assemblages are associated with ambient soundscapes Academic Article uri icon


  • Coral reefs provide a wide array of ecosystem services and harbor some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet, but many reefs are in decline worldwide. Tracking changes is necessary for effective resource management. Biological sounds have been suggested as a means to quantify ecosystem health and biodiversity, but this requires an understanding of natural bioacoustic variability and relationships to the taxa present. This investigation sought to characterize spatial and temporal variation in biological sound production within and among reefs that varied in their benthic and fish diversity. Multiple acoustic recorders were deployed for intensive 24-hour periods and longer term (~4-month) duty-cycled deployments on three reefs that varied in coral cover and fish density. Short-term results suggest that while there were statistically significant acoustic differences among recorders on a given reef, these differences were relatively small, indicating that a single sensor may be suitable for acoustic characterization of reefs. Analyses of sounds recorded over ~4 months indicated that the strength of diel trends in a low frequency fish band (100-1000 Hz) was correlated with coral cover and fish density but the strength of high-frequency snapping-shrimp (2-20 kHz) trends was not, suggesting that low-frequency recordings may be better indicators of the species assemblages present. Power spectra varied within reefs over the deployment periods, underscoring the need for long-duration recordings to characterize these trends. These findings suggest that, in spite of considerable spatial and temporal variability within reef soundscapes, diel trends in low-frequency sound production correlate with reef species assemblages.

publication date

  • August 6, 2015