Acoustic indices provide information on the status of coral reefs: an example from Moorea Island in the South Pacific

Abstract : Different marine habitats are characterised by different soundscapes. How or which differences may be representative of the habitat characteristics and/or community structure remains however to be explored. A growing project in passive acoustics is to find a way to use soundscapes to have information on the habitat and on its changes. In this study we have successfully tested the potential of two acoustic indices, i.e. the average sound pressure level and the acoustic complexity index based on the frequency spectrum. Inside and outside marine protected areas of Moorea Island (French Polynesia), sound pressure level was positively correlated with the characteristics of the substratum and acoustic complexity was positively correlated with fish diversity. It clearly shows soundscape can be used to evaluate the acoustic features of marine protected areas, which presented a significantly higher ambient sound pressure level and were more acoustically complex than non-protected areas. This study further emphasizes the importance of acoustics as a tool in the monitoring of marine environments and in the elaboration and management of future conservation plans. Coral reef ecosystems are among the most biologically diverse and complex marine ecosystems worldwide. In addition to their biological and ecological importance, coral reefs support major economic and physical functions (e.g. food production, tourism, biotechnology development and coastal protection) that are essential for many countries 1. Unfortunately, coral reefs are severely threatened: 20% of coral reefs can no longer be defined as such, another 25% are currently endangered and another 25% will be endangered by 2050 2. The frequency and severity of natural perturbations (e.g. cyclone, outbreaks of predators, particularly the crown-of-thorns starfish [COTS] Acanthaster planci) and anthropogenic perturbations (e.g. ocean acidification, pesticides, rising seawater temperatures) on coral reefs have greatly increased worldwide in the last three decades, and, as a consequence, reef communities (fish, coral and benthic invertebrates) have suffered unprecedented levels of decline 3,4
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Frédéric Bertucci, Eric Parmentier, Gaël Lecellier, Anthony Hawkins, David Lecchini. Acoustic indices provide information on the status of coral reefs: an example from Moorea Island in the South Pacific. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2016, ⟨10.1038/srep33326⟩. ⟨hal-01370610⟩

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