Habitat degradation negatively affects auditory settlement behavior of coral reef fishes

Gordon, Timothy A. C., Harding, Harry R., Wong, Kathryn E., Merchant, Nathan D. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1090-0016, Meekan, Mark G., McCormick, Mark I., Radford, Andrew N. and Simpson, Stephen D. (2018) Habitat degradation negatively affects auditory settlement behavior of coral reef fishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (20). pp. 5193-5198. ISSN 0027-8424

[thumbnail of pnas.1719291115]
PDF (pnas.1719291115) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Coral reefs are increasingly degraded by climate-induced bleaching and storm damage. Reef recovery relies on recruitment of young fishes for the replenishment of functionally important taxa. Acoustic cues guide the orientation, habitat selection, and settlement of many fishes, but these processes may be impaired if degradation alters reef soundscapes. Here, we report spatiotemporally matched evidence of soundscapes altered by degradation from recordings taken before and after recent severe damage on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Postdegradation soundscapes were an average of 15 dB re 1 µPa quieter and had significantly reduced acoustic complexity, richness, and rates of invertebrate snaps compared with their predegradation equivalents. We then used these matched recordings in complementary light-trap and patch-reef experiments to assess responses of wild fish larvae under natural conditions. We show that postdegradation soundscapes were 8% less attractive to presettlement larvae and resulted in 40% less settlement of juvenile fishes than predegradation soundscapes; postdegradation soundscapes were no more attractive than open-ocean sound. However, our experimental design does not allow an estimate of how much attraction and settlement to isolated postdegradation soundscapes might change compared with isolated predegradation soundscapes. Reductions in attraction and settlement were qualitatively similar across and within all trophic guilds and taxonomic groups analyzed. These patterns may lead to declines in fish populations, exacerbating degradation. Acoustic changes might therefore trigger a feedback loop that could impair reef resilience. To understand fully the recovery potential of coral reefs, we must learn to listen.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2022 11:30
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2022 17:39
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/84307
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1719291115

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item