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Soundscapes of natural and artificial temperate reefs: similar temporal patterns but distinct spectral content

Rebecca V. Van Hoeck*, Avery B. Paxton, DelWayne R. Bohnenstiehl, J. Christopher Taylor, F. Joel Fodrie, Douglas P. Nowacek, Christine M. Voss, Charles H. Peterson

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine soundscapes often differ among habitats; however, relatively little is known about whether soundscapes on naturally occurring habitats differ from soundscapes on human-made structures. To address this, we investigated whether temporal and spectral characteristics of biological sound production differ between natural and artificial offshore reefs. Specifically, we analyzed recordings from 5, week-long hydrophone deployments on 2 natural rocky reefs and 2 artificial reefs on the North Carolina, USA, continental shelf. Analysis of sound pressure level (SPL) on hourly and seasonal scales revealed similar temporal patterns between the reef types. These patterns were largely driven by 4 dominant fish vocalizers with seasonal chorusing patterns, including a toadfish species (Opsanus spp.). Despite similar temporal patterns within reef type, soundscape spectral content was more similar within than between reef type, especially during the April deployment, which had the most acoustic activity. Our findings suggest that the soundscapes of shipwreck artificial reefs may differ from the soundscapes of natural rocky reefs, possibly due to differing community composition. As sound plays an important role in the navigation and settlement of many marine species, soundscape differences between natural and artificial habitats could affect ecosystem function through species behavior and interactions.