Habitat degradation negatively affects auditory settlement behavior of coral reef fishes

Gordon, Timothy A.C., Harding, Harry R., Wong, Kathryn E., Merchant, Nathan D., 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 of the United States of America, 115 (20). pp. 5193-5198.

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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 ID: 53896
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1091-6490
Keywords: acoustics, climate change, coral reefs, Great Barrier Reef, settlement
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Marine Scotland Science (MSS), Royal Society (RS), University of Exeter, Australian Research Council (ARC), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: NERC Grant NE/P001572/1, NERC-AIMS CASE GW4+ Studentship NE/L002434/1, NERC-MSS CASE GW4+ Studentship NE/L002434/1, RS Research Grant RG160452, ARC Discovery Grant DP170103372
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2018 07:55
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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