Soundscape diversity in the Great Barrier Reef: Lizard Island, a case study

Jamie N. McWilliam, Rob D. McCauley, Christine Erbe & Miles J. G. Parsons (2018). Soundscape diversity in the Great Barrier Reef: Lizard Island, a case study. Bioacoustics, Volume 27 (3): 295 -311

Passive acoustic monitoring can provide valuable information on coral reefs, and examining the acoustic attributes of these ecosystems has the potential to provide an insight into their status and condition. From 2014 to 2016, a series of underwater recordings were taken at field sites around Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Six individual fish choruses were identified where each chorus displayed distinct acoustic characteristics. Choruses exhibited diurnal activity and some field sites displayed consistently higher diversity of choruses and levels than others, suggesting that particular locations are important aggregation areas for soniferous fish species. During peak activity, choruses were a prominent component of reef soundscapes, where received levels of a chorus reached upwards of 120 dB re 1µPa rms over the 450–650 Hz band, equating to a 40 dB increase above ambient noise levels of ≈80 dB re 1µPa rms. Three out of the six detected choruses exhibited spectral and temporal characteristics similar to choruses previously documented at these sites and elsewhere, produced by planktivorous fish species. Three of these choruses appear to be undocumented and could hold information on the presence, abundance and dispersal patterns of important fish species, which may have potential long-term management applications. Future research should focus on extricating the temporal patterns associated with bioacoustic activity and determining the potential environmental drivers of biological choruses. Additionally, developing appropriate techniques for direct identification of vocalizing species would strongly increase the management applicability of passive acoustic monitoring.


Coral reefs, soundscape, long-term monitoring, fish chorus, passive acoustics