Noise generated by coral reef communities provides a valuable orientation cue for reef fish; both for larvae as they recruit to reefs, and for adults and juveniles during nocturnal movements. However, the nature of the information conveyed in reef noise is as yet unknown. In this study, the characteristics of daytime acoustic recordings from patch and fringing reefs in the Las Perlas Archipelago, Pacific Panama were compared. Using a correlation matrix, the best predictors of acoustic characteristics were identified from a range of factors, including fish density and biomass, coral and fish diversity, coral and algal cover, reef depth and sea state. Multiple regression GLMs highlighted the importance of fish density and diversity on noise below 1 kHz, and coral and benthic diversity on noise above 1 kHz. A positive correlation was also found between coral cover and daytime noise intensity across the entire Archipelago, suggesting potential in the future development of passive acoustics as a method for rapid ecological assessment or for long-term monitoring of reefs. These findings demonstrate the richness of information available to reef fishes, and make the case for further studies that explore the relationships between habitat and community characteristics with temporal and spatial variation in reef noise.


PCA showing recordings of coral reefs from Las Perlas islands in the Gulf of Panama. Recordings were more similar within sites, and differences reflected variation in fish densities, coral diversity, coral cover and the number of noisy Stegastes flavilatus fish between sites.

Kennedy EV, Holderied MW, Mair JM, Guzmán HM, Simpson SD. 2010. Spatial patterns in reef-generated noise relate to habitats and communities: evidence from a Panamanian case study. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 395:85-92.