Acoustic and biological trends on coral reefs off Maui, Hawaii

Abstract

Coral reefs are characterized by high biodiversity, and evidence suggests that reef soundscapes reflect local species assemblages. To investigate how sounds produced on a given reef relate to abiotic and biotic parameters and how that relationship may change over time, an observational study was conducted between September 2014 and January 2016 at seven Hawaiian reefs that varied in coral cover, rugosity, and fish assemblages. The reefs were equipped with temperature loggers and acoustic recording devices that recorded on a 10% duty cycle. Benthic and fish visual survey data were collected four times over the course of the study. On average, reefs ranged from 0 to 80% live coral cover, although changes between surveys were noted, in particular during the major El Niño-related bleaching event of October 2015. Acoustic analyses focused on two frequency bands (50–1200 and 1.8–20.5 kHz) that corresponded to the dominant spectral features of the major sound-producing taxa on these reefs, fish, and snapping shrimp, respectively. In the low-frequency band, the presence of humpback whales (December–May) was a major contributor to sound level, whereas in the high-frequency band sound level closely tracked water temperature. On shorter timescales, the magnitude of the diel trend in sound production was greater than that of the lunar trend, but both varied in strength among reefs, which may reflect differences in the species assemblages present. Results indicated that the magnitude of the diel trend was related to fish densities at low frequencies and coral cover at high frequencies; however, the strength of these relationships varied by season. Thus, long-term acoustic recordings capture the substantial acoustic variability present in coral-reef ecosystems and provide insight into the presence and relative abundance of sound-producing organisms.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this research was provided by the PADI Foundation, the WHOI Access To The Sea initiative and Ocean Life Institute, and the National Science Foundation Grant OCE-1536782. We thank Lee James and Meagan Jones for generously providing vessel support. This research benefited from helpful analysis advice from David Mann and Andy Solow and comments from three anonymous reviewers. Alessandro Bocconcelli, Steve Faluotico, Merra Howe, Jim Partan, Laela Sayigh, Russell Sparks, and Darla White provided engineering and technical assistance in the field. This work was permitted by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (SAP 2015-29 and Special Use Permit 95132).

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Correspondence to Maxwell B. Kaplan.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Mark R. Patterson

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Kaplan, M.B., Lammers, M.O., Zang, E. et al. Acoustic and biological trends on coral reefs off Maui, Hawaii. Coral Reefs 37, 121–133 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-017-1638-x

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Keywords

  • Coral reefs
  • Soundscapes
  • Biodiversity
  • Soniferous