Using coastal soundscapes to quantify coral reef communities and anthropogenic activities

T. Aran Mooney
Biology Dept
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Measuring biodiversity and tracking changes in marine ecosystems is a challenging task. Sites are often remote, difficult to access and conventional biodiversity assessment methods are often only “snap-shots” of a system and can easily be impaired at night or in murky waters. We are evaluating ambient underwater sounds (soundscape) of coral reefs in many locations around the world as a potential way to identify the health of a system, its biodiversity and human usage.  Here we show soundscapes can be used to identify differences in the composition of coral reef communities. We are also quantifying coral reef ambient noise levels, a needed baseline for coastal communities, and how boat sounds change this soundscape, but can also be a useful tool for managers of marine protected areas to evaluate patterns of area use.