How human-made noise affects animals

Photo credit: Matthis Volquardsen from Pexels

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

As I have written in previous posts, human-made noises have not only adversely affected the health and well being of people, but these noises also affect the well being of many species with whom we share this planet. Human-made noise forces the increased volume of urban bird calls, resulting in stress to some species, and deep-sea mining interests may have disrupted the lives of sea creatures for many years to come.

In her article for Psychology Today, Mary Bates informs us that noise pollution may hamper the communication of animals, “from insects to frogs to birds,” and this may have “potential consequences for mate attraction, territory defense and parent-offspring communication.” In support, she cites a new paper that reported the findings of a large number of studies that examined the impact of “anthropogenic noise,” or noise pollution, on animal communication. These studies found that animals had to make adjustments as a result of noise intrusions, and such adjustments could intrude on their existence. For example, when females had to call louder to attract males, these louder calls also attracted more predators, endangering the very lives of these animals.

The authors of the paper, Hansjoerg Kunc, Queen’s University Belfast, and his colleague Rouven Schmidt, conclude that it is essential for us to track noise pollution because the knowledge gained in such tracking will “ultimately determine the health of both ecosystems and organisms, including humans.” By including humans in this warning, they are cautioning us to protect our natural soundscapes not only to protect other species but ourselves as well.

Dr. Arline Bronzaft is a researcher, writer, and consultant on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health. She is co-author of “Why Noise Matters,” author of “Listen to the Raindrops” (children’s book illustrated by Steven Parton), and has written extensively about noise in books, encyclopedias, academic journals, and the popular press.  In addition, she is a Professor Emerita of the City University of New York and Board member of GrowNYC.

Comment (1)

  1. Melissa Elstein

    This is a very important article as noise pollution is not just a quality of life issue for humans; it is also a health issue for both humans and wildlife. That noise is a health issue needs to be understood and acted on by our legislatures and government agencies at both the local and federal levels.
    We at Stop The Chop NY/NJ are seeking a ban of nonessential helicopters over NYC and the NY Metropolitan area and support Congressmembers Maloney, Nadler and Velasquez’s recently introduced legislation HR4880.
    Yesterday, there was an article about eagles now in Central Park (they had previously also been spotted in Riverside Park and along the Hudson River and Henry Hudson Parkway). These areas of NYC have become tourist helicopter hotspots with noisy, and polluting helicopters flying low and loudly. Of course, beyond our national symbol of the eagle, Central Park is a major and important migration path for birds. Not only do humans need our parks to be quiet oases from the hectic urban life, but so do the wildlife. Please add Stop The Chop NY/NJ to your coalition. Thanks for your work on this important issue.


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