Artificial Intelligence Can Track Health of Corals Reefs by Understanding Complex Soundscape


Coral reefs hide many secrets that are difficult for scientists to record and study. Experts must perform careful analyzes to determine the health of coral reefs based on acoustic recordings because corals have a complex acoustic landscape. Now, in new research, artificial intelligence (AI) can track the health of coral reefs by learning the ‘coral song’. Scientists at the University of Exeter used several recordings of healthy and degraded corals to train a computer algorithm, allowing the machine to tell the difference. The computer then analyzed a large number of additional recordings and correctly identified the health of the corals 92 percent of the time. This was used to track the progress of coral reef restoration projects by the team.

The meaning of many of these calls is unknown, but a new AI system can distinguish between the aggregate sounds of healthy and unhealthy corals. The recordings used in the study were made at the Mars Reef Restoration Project in Indonesia, which is working to restore severely damaged coral reefs.

The results were published in the journal Ecological Indicators.

Ben Williams, the study’s lead author, said coral reefs are under threat from a variety of factors, including climate change, and therefore, it was essential to monitor their health and the success of conservation efforts.

One important challenge faced by challengers was that visual and audio surveys of the reefs were usually very labor intensive. The fact that many corals burrow or are active at night limits visual surveys, and the richness of reef noise makes it difficult to determine the health of coral reefs using individual recordings.

To solve this difficulty, the researchers used machine learning to see if a computer could capture the melody of the reef.

Our findings show that a computer can pick up patterns that cannot be detected in the human ear. It can tell us faster, and more accurately, how corals work,” Williams said.

Co-author Dr Tim Lamont of Lancaster University believes that the AI ​​method will greatly improve coral reef monitoring. He said voice recorders and artificial intelligence could be used around the world to track the health of coral reefs and see if efforts to protect and restore them are successful.

In many cases, Dr. Lamont said, it is faster and less expensive to put an underwater aquarium on a reef and leave it there rather than having professional divers regularly check the reef, especially in isolated areas.


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