A team of researchers led by the universities of Exeter and Bristol have shown that reducing noise from motorboats through traffic calming could help fish reproduce more efficiently in coral reefs.
Scientists monitored three reefs for an entire breeding season to track spiny chromis reproduction.
The research was conducted on reefs near Lizard Island Research Station on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
They implemented traffic calming by increasing the number of boats allowed within 100 meters of the reefs.
Boats within this distance must reduce their speed.
Their study found that 65% of nests on calmer reefs still had offspring at the end of the season. In contrast, only 40% of nests on reefs frequented by motorboats contained any offspring.
Scientists also found that offspring were larger and more numerous late in the season on calmer reefs.
The group also conducted aquarium tests with the same species.
They observed that noise interfered with important parenting behaviors. For example, spiny chromis parents fanned the eggs with their fins to provide oxygenation.
Dr Sophie Nedelec, lead author of the University of Exeter study, said the results of the experiment offer a way to help endangered coral reefs as they face multiple threats in the world.
Nedelec added that reducing boat noise on the reefs will provide much-needed relief to the fish to enable successful production.
The study author talked about three simple changes that any boater can make.
First, boat channels should be further away from the reefs; second, drive slowly when approaching reefs; and third, avoid anchoring near reefs.
Nedelec emphasized that the above solutions empower local people to protect fragile ecosystems.
Monitoring of six coral reefs
The doctor further explained that they monitored a total of six reefs. Three reefs without traffic calming, also known as control reefs, and three reefs where traffic calming has been implemented.
Their data collection lasted an entire summer breeding season. The team swam along each reef every other day to monitor the survival of 86 broods of Spiny Chromis in their natural habitat.
On the reefs whose circulation was calmed, they observed 46 nests. Thirty still contained offspring at the end of the breeding season. On control reefs, only 16 of 40 nests still had offspring.
Dr Laura Velasquez Jimenez, co-author of the study from James Cook University, explained that it is difficult to find the nests before the hatchlings hatch because the spiny chromis hide their eggs in caves in the reef. .
Therefore, the team conducted a parallel study in aquaria to examine embryonic development.
The team recorded an audio playback of the natural sounds of the reefs.
This was used in the aquarium study, where some spiny chromis parents and eggs were kept. Others were exposed to intermittent and beautiful playbacks.
Professor Andy Radford, co-author of the study from the University of Bristol, explained that the complementary laboratory study showed that the improvements in breathing were actually due to the boats limiting most of the pollution.
The combined results showed that reducing boat noise benefits the coral reef fish population. Marine life is becoming more resilient to the changes currently caused by human activities.
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