Coral concerts, fragmented forests, Arctic warming: 3 stories you may have missed

© Mlenny/istockphoto

Editor's Note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

1. Scientists used loudspeakers to make dead coral reefs sound healthy. Fish flocked to them

Fish are attracted to the sounds of healthy coral reefs, according to a new study.

The Story: Scientists have discovered that broadcasting the sounds of a healthy coral reef can help bring fish back to dying reef ecosystems, reported Derek Hawkins for The Washington Post. Researchers recorded the sounds of a healthy reef using an underwater microphone, then played the recordings in a degraded patch of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. They found that double the amount of fish gathered — and remained — near this patch compared to other dying reef areas.

The Big Picture: “Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places — the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape,” said Stephen D. Simpson, a senior author of the study. “Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they’re looking for a place to settle.” Fish are critical to reef ecosystem health, keeping surfaces clean for coral to grow and eating algae that could damage the coral. According to this research, broadcasting the sounds of healthy coral reefs using underwater loudspeakers could help revitalize reef ecosystems that are dying due to heatwaves, overfishing and pollution.

Read more here.

2. Fractured forests are endangering wildlife, scientists find

Humans are destroying forests in the name of development, imperiling the wildlife that live there, concluded recent research.

The Story: A new study shows that more than half of the animal species found in intact forests are at risk of extinction due to encroaching human development, reported Carl Zimmer for The New York Times. While several species in fragmented forests have adapted to development over time by changing their diets or adjusting mating calls, many species in undisturbed forests may not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive the impacts of human activity.

The Big Picture: The majority of the world’s wildlife diversity can be found in forests largely undisturbed by human activity. When forests are fragmented due to logging, agriculture, oil extraction and other human activities, it becomes increasingly difficult for wildlife to find food and mates, endangering their survival.

Read more here.

3. The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of Earth

The polar ice caps are melting more rapidly than previously anticipated, a new study reveals.

The Story: Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic are fueling extreme weather events, killing wildlife and melting polar ice caps, according to a new study co-authored by Conservation International Chief Scientist Johan Rockström. In just 10 years, the Arctic’s average temperature has increased 0.75 degrees Celsius (1.35 degrees Fahrenheit) — about how much the entire Earth has warmed in the past 137 years, reported Eric Niiler for Wired.

The Big Picture: “We have reached a planetary emergency that requires immediate action to limit future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Rockström in a statement urging countries to commit to more ambitious emissions reduction goals. If countries continue to emit carbon at their current rates, the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years due to rising temperatures fueled by climate change — which could have disastrous consequences for the planet.

Read more here.

Kiley Price is a staff writer at Conservation International.

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Cover image: Arctic icebergs, outside of Greenland. (©Mlenny/istockphoto)

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