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Sniffing Out Reefs

September 3, 2014

Saving degraded coral reefs may be difficult, because juvenile corals and fish won’t return to them.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Rebuilding coral reef communities. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Coral reefs all over the world are in decline, and seaweed is taking over the seafloor of degraded areas. Georgia Tech biologist Danielle Dixson and her colleagues report in the journal Science that restoring these areas may be difficult, because baby reef fish and coral larvae are repelled by the scent of these damaged reefs, and won’t re-colonize them.

DANIELLE DIXSON (Georgia Institute of Technology):

I mean, coral, once they settle, they don’t get to move, so their initial settlement choice is really important that they make a good one. Habitat choice is so important for them, and if the habitats are so different and one is not healthy, they’re probably not gonna go there and our data confirms that.

HIRSHON:

She says if the reefs are to recover, scientists will have to find ways to introduce chemical cues that attract, rather than repel, home-hunting fish and corals. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.