Noise and wildlife

Human noise takes its toll on birds

Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post, reports that some birds are so stressed by noise pollution that “it looks like they have PTSD.”  Kaplan writes that scientists researching birds living near noisy natural gas treatment facilities in New Mexico discovered from sampling the birds’ blood that they had “the same physiological symptoms as a human suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” Said Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “[n]oise is causing birds to be in a situation where they’re chronically stressed . . . and that has really huge health consequences for birds and their offspring.”

And humans?  The researchers took their findings to Christopher Lowry, a stress physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not surprised by the results–“it’s what you would expect in a creature exposed to prolonged, persistent strain.”  So does the study’s findings have implications about the effect of noise on human health?  Kaplan writes:

To Lowry, the fact that humans respond to stress in the same manner as animals as distantly related as birds suggests that this response is ancient and deeply ingrained. And it raises questions about how humans handle exposure to unrelenting noise. The mother bluebird that nested near a compressor and was unable to leave when the sound became unbearable may not be so different from a low-income human family forced to rent an apartment near a flight path or loud industrial site.

Ultimately, being under an aural assault is bad for any living thing’s health and well-being.  Says Lowry, “[t]here’s evidence that being able to have a full auditory experience is essential for optimal health in both species.”

 

And you thought your neighbors were loud

Make it stop!!!!  Photo credit: Tristan Ferne licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pity the poor dolphin: reproductive orgies of Mexican fish are ao loud, they can deafen dolphins.

Not much to add really, not with a story like this one. Except to note that we had a couple of loud neighbors who failed to understand–at least at first–that everyone in our building could hear everything they were doing by that open window in their bedroom. So here’s a useful tip: A direct and contemporaneous comment about neighbors’ noise-making will swiftly bring their proceedings to halt.

You’re welcome!

 

 

 

How a tsunami revealed human noise pollution

 

Photo credit: Calbear22, photo released into the public domain

Phys.org reports how a tsunami that struck Hawaii in 2011–caused by the same earthquake that hit Japan and created the tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster–caused a temporary halt to boat traffic that allowed scientists “a rare glimpse into what the bays might sound like without human activities.” By luck, the tsunami hit while “a Duke University-lead team was recording underwater sound in four bays” on Hawaii’s Kona coat.

It turns out that oceans are pretty loud. On the day of the tsunami, the loudest part of the day reached 98.8 decibels. Why are oceans so loud? “Because sound waves travel and are amplified differently in water than in air.” But 98.8 decibels was quiet compared to a reading on a typical day, as noise from boat traffic can reach up to 125 decibels, and the sound from nearby sonar exercises tops 143 decibels.

So what did the Duke study conclude? It showed that humans created the loudest disruptions and boat traffic and sonar were “significant causes of noise in all four bays.” Human-made noise has long been a concern of conservationists who fear that “interactions caused by dolphin-encounter boat tours and other human activities” are disrupting dolphins’ sleeping behaviors and potentially interfering with their hunt for food, since dolphins rest in the bays during the day to ready themselves for the hunt at night.

How to help pets stressed by fireworks

Yesterday was Bonfire Night in the UK, a time spent with friends and family, lighting bonfires and enjoying fireworks displays. As in the U.S., people look forward to the parties and displays, but they worry about how the noise makes their pets anxious and fearful. Here’s a useful piece from The Warrington Guardian that looks at how pet owners can protect their stressed out pets.

And for more difficult cases, there’s a medicinal treatment to help man’s best friend.

Or we could enjoy the display without the noise and opt for quiet fireworks.  Yes, it’s an option.

Oysters can hear noise

 

Photo credit: Daniel Schwen licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

and it’s stressing them out! Jean-Charles Massabuau, a marine biologist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, was working on a different project when a diver noted he had never dived in such a noisy spot. Massabuabu wondered if the oysters in that location could hear the noise. After setting up an experiment to see if they would react (they did!) and how (shutting their shells), Massabuabu and team wrote up their findings. Although the oysters had a way to shut out the noise, it comes at a price–they can neither eat nor breathe when their shells are closed.

There is a well-established body of research about ocean sound, but Massabuabu thinks his study results suggest “we should expand our concerns about the impact of noise pollution beyond today’s focus on only dolphins and whales.”

We agree.

Though we must add that while noise pollution may stress out oysters, it’s probably pales in comparison to waiting to be shucked and served with a side of cocktail sauce.

Study: Female Fish Attracted To Males Who ‘Sing’

but noise pollution kills the mood, writes Calum Mckinney, Study Finds, and it’s disrupting fish reproduction all across the world. Mckinney introduces us to Eva-Lotta Blom, a doctoral student at University of Gothenburg, who says “that a large part of the problem is that beneath the waves, sound travels much farther and almost five times faster than in the air.” One common source of noise is from ships, as the sound travels far from the source, creating a very noisy situation that would not be tolerated on land. But industrial noise from pile driving and “seismic airguns may be a bigger factor in ocean noise pollution.

And, no surprise, there are absolutely no noise regulations governing our oceans.

So, how does noise interfere with fish reproduction? Blom studied the effect of noise on gobies, and she found that “singing is critical to the male’s reproductive success.” She performed an experiment in which one tank of gobies was nice and quiet while the other was exposed to simulated boat noise. Blom found the results to be remarkable:

In the noisy environment, the fish didn’t mate much, and in the few instances they did, it took them longer. What’s more, half of the eggs in the noisy aquariums died without hatching and those that did hatch took longer to do so.

Even if you don’t care about the mating success of gobies, think about the implications of ocean noise pollution on fish stocks. With oceans already becoming more acidic and warmer, noise could be the final straw.

 

Our ocean is a symphony

There’s a new film out that looks at the risks of ocean noise to whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and reveals what scientists and conservationists are doing about it. To read more about the film, click to read this review by John C. Cannon for Mongabay.com. Here’s the mesmerizing trailer:

And in related news: New York City noise threatens new neighbors, endangered whales.