The Sound of Sadness!

Why is is that some things so profoundly affect one?

In working my way through magazines and other stuff that I wanted to read following being away for nearly three weeks, I came across a report published by the University of Exeter, back in England, about the effect of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Deteriorating Great Barrier Reef hushed: young fish no longer hear their way home

Degraded coral reefs are far quieter than five years ago, and no longer sound like a suitable habitat to young fish searching for a place to live and breed, according to research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Baby fish looking for a home can use noisy coral reef sounds including snapping shrimp clicks, damselfish chirps, and clownfish chattering to locate and select suitable habitat. But that “coral reef orchestra” has been quietened following recent cyclone and coral-bleaching damage on the Great Barrier Reef, raising fears that young fish may no longer hear their way home.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Exeter, carried out field experiments on the Northern Great Barrier Reef and found that reefs sound much quieter and less acoustically diverse than they did before three years of cyclones and coral bleaching.

The soundscapes of these recently-degraded reefs are less attractive to juvenile fishes attracting 40% fewer fish compared to the sound of previous healthy reefs.

Lead author Tim Gordon, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, said: “It’s heart-breaking to hear. The usual pops, chirps, snaps and chatters of countless fish and invertebrates have disappeared. The symphony of the sea is being silenced.”

This loss of attractiveness of reef sounds to fish in the sea could have devastating consequences for reefs.

I know I am far from being alone in feeling great sadness at this aspect of our changing planet.

So before I republish the rest of that University of Exeter paper take a few minutes and watch this YouTube video about the Australian Barrier Reef

Then listen to this mp3 file that is a recording of the sounds of a healthy reef.

This is the balance of that news item published by the University.

Fish communities are instrumental to maintaining healthy reefs by removing algae, facilitating coral growth, contributing to nutrient cycles and keeping food webs in balance. Damaged reefs with healthy fish populations recover faster than reefs that have lost their fish.

Harry Harding, co-author from the University of Bristol, explains: “If fish aren’t hearing their way home anymore, that could be bad news for the recovery prospects of reefs. Fish play critical roles on coral reefs, grazing away harmful algae and allowing coral to grow. A reef without fish is a reef that’s in trouble.”

Coral reef animals produce a dazzling array of sounds to communicate with each other while hunting, to warn each other about the approach of predators and to impress each other during courtship. Together, these sounds combine to form a soundscape that can be heard for miles around. This soundscape provides a valuable cue for young fish to locate and select habitat after a period of early development in the open ocean.

Gordon said: “Being able to hear the difference really drives home the fact that our coral reefs are being decimated. Some of the most beautiful places on Earth are dying due to human activity, and it is up to us to fix it.”

The scientists from the University of Exeter, University of Bristol, Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), Duke University (USA), the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University (Australia) built experimental reefs from coral rubble on sand flats, then used underwater loudspeakers to broadcast healthy coral reef sounds or degraded coral reef sounds, to see which sounds attracted more young fish.

Senior author Steve Simpson, Associate Professor in Marine Biology & Global Change at the University of Exeter, said: “Over the last 15 years my research group have discovered how important sound can be for fish to locate and select specific reefs. We have marvelled at the remarkable diversity and complexity of coral reef soundscapes. But in the last few years the reefs we know and love have died before our eyes. And the deserted and crumbling rubble fields have turned eerily quiet.”

Professor Simpson added: “If the reefs have gone quiet, then the chances of the next generation of fish recolonising the reefs are much reduced. Without fish, the reefs can’t recover.”

Warming seas increase the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events worldwide, as higher temperatures cause a breakdown in the relationship between corals and the zooxanthellae that they host in their tissue, providing their energy through photosynthesis.

This bleaching recently killed up to 80% of corals in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef, and bleaching events of this nature are happening worldwide four times more frequently than they used to.

Reductions in carbon emissions are needed to reduce this damage, as Gordon explains: “The damage we’ve done to reefs worldwide is horrific, but the fight isn’t over yet. If we can fulfil our international commitments to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, it’s still possible to protect some of the reefs that are left. The time for action is now.”

Date: 30 April 2018

Dear people, the time for action is now!

25 thoughts on “The Sound of Sadness!

  1. Actually, I saw this on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. This is so sad. The Reef was beautiful & the fact that it is dying…..I agree, Paul. People are working to do something about it.


  2. Thanks for that video link; it’s sad to think that one day such records may be all we have left of a once vibrant community of fellow creatures.

    If we can fulfil our international commitments to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, it’s still possible to protect some of the reefs that are left. The time for action is now.
    I hate to disagree, but the ‘time for action’ is: years ago, and ‘international commitments to reduce carbon emissions’ is just a buzzphrase used to persuade folks that action is happening… when it is, quite simply, not. Carbon emissions keep on going up, not down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly Pedantry I agree with you. In fact I follow the Near Term Human Extinction movement on FB and elsewhere. It’s all so utterly sad and there are many
      close followers of environmental and climate news ( like myself) who are actually grieving on a daily basis. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it, how – in not much over 200 hundred years – we have unleashed this level of destruction on the natural systems of our unique and precious planet?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh dear!

        Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have significantly increased since 1900. Since 1970, CO2 emissions have increased by about 90%, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011. Agriculture, deforestation, and other land-use changes have been the second-largest contributors.[1]

        Read here:

        Oh, dear oh dear! ☹️


      2. Yes, sadly, it is a fact. Atmospheric CO2 as of April 2018 stands at 410.31 parts per million; it’s still going up — and accelerating.

        That you feel the need to ask the question just underlines how far we haven’t come in tackling the problem — which is not meant in any derogative way, it’s just that I’m sure that many people are persuaded by the ‘international commitments to reduce carbon emissions’ noise emitted by the politicians and the media.


      3. Your point is very well made! I’m reading Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment NOW in which he sets out the case for “Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. Pinker offers very strong arguments that society will progress (and I am only on p. 45 out of 453 pages) but when one looks at that CO2 trend one has to wonder!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Society can only progress if it has a livable home… :/ I’m reminded of a discussion with my late father about how we’re persuaded by our (relatively short) personal experience that civilization is on a trend that’s ever upward — but that may not be the case. There’s a term for this, but it escapes me at the moment.


      5. I feel things in a very similar way to you. But I am genuinely interested in seeing how Pinker addresses the issue of our future under the umbrella of progress.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, the message of a human demise has been slow getting out to the general populace. I have been on the bandwagon since 1999, but things have got a lot worse rather than better since then 😦


      1. I went to an Organic growing weekend of workshops at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. One of the seminars was on GM crops, and the awful things that Monsanto was doing in Mexico… I came away with a new perspective on the world. 😢


      2. Thanks for that background information. Part of me can’t imagine what you learned about Monsanto. Yet another part of me is sickened by what has been done, and is still being done, in the name of shareholder profits. The unacceptable face of capitalism! (And I’m a long way from being the ‘leftist’ those words might suggest I am!)


      3. Me neither. I am not left leaning. Actually, I don’t really feel a political view, but I guess if I have to fit in a box, I would lean slightly to the right. I rarely like to vote…I think politics is corrupt and dishonest. I’m a humanist and a believer in giving everyone and everything a chance before making a personal judgment based on behaviour. We need a new society based on kindness.

        For instance…

        The black honey bees here in Spain can be aggressive… But when one fell in my drink, I gave no thought to it and fished it out with my finger aware that it might sting. It didn’t… They never do when I save them from drowning. It sat on my finger, dried itself and flew away when it had composed itself. Intention (that thought that appears in your mind, be it fear, aggression, or kindness) is the key to our every act.


      4. By the way, that Workshop where I leaned the awful truth about Monsanto (who incidentally fund the agricultural programs at the University of Guelph (effectively hushing them up), was in 1999… nearly Twenty years of GM manipulation in poor economies that has put most of the subsistence farmers, the organic and traditional farmers, and small food producers out of business. Many people have been bankrupted by Monsanto’s policies.


      5. Monsanto has been around for 100 years. They produced the agent orange for the Vietnam war and many of the chemicals that have killed off normal soil conditions. I see them more like weaponry, rather than the answer to world food poverty. Think about that for a sec, and the implications therein.


      6. I an better understand the reasons why Jeannie and I know exactly where you re coming from. Thank you so much for letting us, and everyone else, get to know you and what you stand for! Well done!

        Oh, nearly forgot to add that I have no doubt that it is our intention that our wonderful dogs read in us so clearly and quickly!


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