University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > Impacts and mitigation of anthropogenic noise

Impacts and mitigation of anthropogenic noise

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  • UserSophie Nedelec (University of Exeter)
  • ClockTuesday 01 February 2022, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseZoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Emily Mitchell.

Sound is relatively important for fish because it propagates far in comparison with light, and independently of currents in contrast to chemical cues, underwater. Therefore underwater sound is rich in information about the properties and inhabitants of the surroundings. Many aquatic animals use acoustic cues for communication, orientation and habitat selection, but this makes them vulnerable to underwater noise pollution. Anthropogenic noise is a pollutant of international concern, with mounting evidence of impacts on animal behaviour and physiology that are pervasive across taxa, ecosystems and the world. Recent work shows that underwater noise affects all stages of the life cycles of coral reef fishes that inhabit fragile coral reef habitats. Stressed and badly behaved fishes are pushed to their limits, with impacts on offspring survival. But the tide could turn on noise pollution. My team and I experimentally tested the hypothesis that protecting vulnerable habitats from noise pollution can improve animal reproductive success. Using a season-long field manipulation with an established model system on the Great Barrier Reef, the spiny chromis, we demonstrated that limiting motorboat activity on reefs leads to the survival of more fish offspring compared to reefs experiencing busy motorboat traffic. A complementary laboratory experiment isolated the importance of noise and, in combination with the field study, showed that the enhanced reproductive success on protected reefs is likely due to improvements in parental care and offspring growth. Noise mitigation and abatement offer simple wins in protecting coral reefs from human impacts, and present a valuable opportunity for enhancing ecosystem resilience.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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