Nav: Home

Hurricanes Irma and Maria temporarily altered choruses of land and sea animals

February 15, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Audio recordings of Hurricanes Irma and Maria's passage over Puerto Rico document how the calls of coastal critters changed in response to the deadly storms. The hurricanes caused a major disruption in the acoustic activity of snapping shrimp, a reduction in insect and bird sounds, and potentially an intensification of fish choruses, according to new research presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting Friday.

In March 2017, researchers set up acoustic monitoring sites in coastal forests and coral reefs on Puerto Rico's southwest coast to continuously record the area's ambient sounds. Their goal was to capture the region's land and sea soundscapes - especially the cacophony of sounds created by animal vocalizations - and document how and why they change over time.

But the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria over Puerto Rico in September gave the researchers an unexpected look at how coastal soundscapes change in response to natural disasters. Although the hurricanes did not directly hit the study area, audio recordings reveal the storms had noticeable short-term effects on fish choruses, snapping shrimp activity in coral reefs, and bird and insect calls on land.

The recordings show fish increased the intensity of their nightly choruses in the days following Hurricane Irma. The clicking of snapping shrimp, which are among the loudest animal noises in the ocean, plummeted during Hurricane Maria, and the daily snapping rhythm was disrupted for several days.

In nearby dry forests, Maria had longer-lasting effects on the soundscape. There was a marked reduction in insect sounds during the three weeks after the storm. Listen to time-lapse recordings of changes to insect sounds, fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity here.

The results show how scientists can use the soundscape as a measure of biodiversity and environmental change, according to the researchers. Capturing responses from a variety of species at the same time can help scientists better understand how the ecosystem is affected as a whole, according to Ben Gottesman, a PhD candidate at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and lead author of the new research.

"Sometimes you can't visually assess an impact, but you can certainly capture that through changes in the soundscape," said Felix Martinez, an ecologist and Program Manager at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who will present the new findings Friday at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting, co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, The Oceanography Society and the American Geophysical Union. "We really need to understand when those changes are natural versus due to some kind of stressor, whether it's human or natural."

Similar to birds and frogs, fish call to find mates and defend spawning territories, producing choruses at specific times of day and specific times of the year. Gottesman suspects one reason the fish may have chorused more after Hurricane Irma--which coincided with the full moon--was because the water became very turbid, making it harder for them to be seen by predators.

While the fish increased their activity following Hurricane Irma, shrimp snaps declined steeply during Maria and rebounded in the first few days after the storm. Snapping shrimp make a loud cracking noise with their claws to stun and catch prey. The snapping shrimp recorded in Puerto Rico displayed a very precise¬ schedule of when they snapped the most, almost like clockwork, Gottesman said. After the storms, peaks of snapping activity at dawn and dusk were less pronounced, and it took several days for them to recover to pre-storm levels.

The researchers suspect the shrimp could have snapped less for several reasons. During the storms, the intense current and turbidity likely dissuaded the shrimps from seeking prey, or else the extreme turbidity muffled the high-frequency shrimp snaps. After the storm, Maria may have disturbed their rocky coral habitats, the shrimp could have been spending time cleaning out their burrows, or they may not have been able to see their prey when the water became turbid.

Post-storm recordings show the land and sea animals' vocalizations in this part of Puerto Rico, which was not in the eye of the storm, did eventually rebound to pre-storm levels. Maria was a catastrophic disaster, causing an estimated $90 billion worth of damage, but the new findings show how resilient this coastal ecosystem was in response to the storm, according to the researchers.
-end-
More than 4,000 scientists are expected to present the latest research findings about the world's oceans at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting. The biennial meeting brings together researchers from the American Geophysical Union, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and The Oceanography Society.

Notes for Journalists

Co-author Felix Martinez will give an oral presentation about this research on Friday, 16 February at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting. The meeting runs from 11-16 February 2018, at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland, Oregon, 97232. Visit the Ocean Sciences Media Center for information for members of the news media.

Abstract:

Altered Soundscapes Help Reveal Hurricane Maria's Impact on Three Coral Reef Habitats off the Coast of Puerto Rico

Session:

Basin- to Global-Scale Ocean Transport, Connectivity, and Dispersal: Interdisciplinary Connections II Posters

Date: Friday, 16 February 2018
Time: 2:48 - 3:00 p.m. PST
Location: Oregon Convention Center, Room F151
Abstract number: AI53B-05

Contact information for the researchers:

Felix Martinez
felix.martinez@noaa.gov
1-301-237-5414 (cell)
1-734-741-2254 (office).

Ben Gottesman
blegottesman@gmail.com
1-917-868-9384 (cell).

The following release, and accompanying images and audio files can be found at: https://news.agu.org/press-release/hurricanes-irma-and-maria-temporarily-altered-choruses-of-land-and-sea-animals/

Hurricanes Irma and Maria temporarily altered choruses of land and sea animals

2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting
Oregon Convention Center
Portland, Oregon
11-16 February 2018

Ocean Sciences Press Office Contacts:

Nanci Bompey
1-914-552-5759
nbompey@agu.org

Lauren Lipuma
1-504-427-6069
llipuma@agu.org

American Geophysical Union

Related Coral Reefs Articles:

A brave new world for coral reefs
It is not too late to save coral reefs, but we must act now.
Regular coral larvae supply from neighboring reefs helps degraded reefs recover
For reefs facing huge challenges, more coral larvae doesn't necessarily translate to increased rates of coral recovery on degraded reefs, a new Queensland study has showed.
Potential for Saudi Arabian coral reefs to shine
Careful marine management and stricter fishing laws could enable Saudi Arabia's coral reefs to thrive.
New coral bleaching database to help predict fate of global reefs
A UBC-led research team has developed a new global coral bleaching database that could help scientists predict future bleaching events.
Fish social lives may be key to saving coral reefs
Fish provide a critical service for coral reefs by eating algae that can kill coral and dominate reefs if left unchecked.
Land-based microbes may be invading and harming coral reefs
A new study suggests that coral reefs -- already under existential threat from global warming -- may be undergoing further damage from invading bacteria and fungi coming from land-based sources, such as outfall from sewage treatment plants and coastal inlets.
Dead zones may threaten coral reefs worldwide
Dead zones affect dozens of coral reefs around the world and threaten hundreds more according to a new study by Smithsonian scientists published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Deep reefs unlikely to save shallow coral reefs
Often highlighted as important ecological refuges, deep sections of coral reefs (30-60 m depth) can offer protection from the full force of climate change-related impacts, such as intensifying storms and warm-water bleaching.
Coral reefs grow faster and healthier when parrotfish are abundant
A new study by Smithsonian scientists and colleagues that reveals 3,000 years of change in reefs in the western Caribbean provides long-term, compelling evidence that parrotfish, which eat algae that can smother corals, are vital to coral-reef growth and health.
Rising CO2 threatens coral and people who use reefs
Damage to coral reefs from ocean acidification and sea surface temperature rise will be worst at just the spots where human dependence on reefs is highest, according to a new analysis appearing in PLOS ONE.

Related Coral Reefs Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#514 Arctic Energy (Rebroadcast)
This week we're looking at how alternative energy works in the arctic. We speak to Louie Azzolini and Linda Todd from the Arctic Energy Alliance, a non-profit helping communities reduce their energy usage and transition to more affordable and sustainable forms of energy. And the lessons they're learning along the way can help those of us further south.