Noise and wildlife

Human noise threatens marine life

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Noise is a health hazard and a public health hazard, causing auditory disorders (hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis) and non-auditory health problems, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and death.

This report by Jim Robbins in the New York Times discusses the hazards of noise for marine life. Noise hurts marine mammals, fish, and even plankton.

An evolutionary biology perspective is helpful in understanding why noise is a problem. Loud noise is rare in nature. All creatures on land or in the sea evolved in quiet. That is the natural state, for plants, animals, and humans.

It looks like all living things need quiet to thrive.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Preserving the rainforest’s soundtrack

Photo credit: David Riaño Cortés from Pexels

MIchael J. Coren, Quartz, writes about bioacoustics, a burgeoning field that uses “microphones to capture the aural signature of an ecosystem’s inhabitants from its tiniest creatures to its resident humans.” The goal of bioacoustics is to “monitor biodiversity, on a budget, over vast areas of remote rainforest.” Coren writes about a recent paper in the journal Science, where the authors suggest that bioacoustics “could fill a critical gap for conservation projects” by monitoring the forest’s health after it’s been saved.

Click the link to listen to the recordings that accompany the piece.  Two of them are soundscapes of healthy forests, while the third is clear-cut jungle now worked as a palm oil plantation.  The difference in the range and loudness of sound is apparent.

 

It’s not just humans who can’t tolerate construction noise

Photo credit: Diana Silaraja

Pandas at the Edinburgh Zoo are being moved to shelter them from construction noise from a nearby site. Turns out pandas are particularly vulnerable to loud noise because they have ultrasonic hearing. And the Scottish government isn’t screwing around–they insisted on being informed if and when plans to move the pandas were approved by the city council because concerns about the pandas “could raise issues of national importance.”

If only U.S. city governments were so diligent in protecting the hearing of humans exposed to nonstop noise.

Fireworks banned on the Galapagos to protect wild life

Photo credit: Simon Matzinger from Pexels

DW.com reports that the government of Ecuador banned sales of most fireworks on the Galapagos Islands shortly before the new year to protect the “archipelago’s unique fauna.” The only fireworks exempted from the ban are those that produce light but not noise.  According to DW.com, conservationists said the sounds of fireworks exploding “cause elevated heart rates, nervous stress and anxiety among animals on the islands, which are home to several endemic species including iguanas and tortoises.”

Congratulations to Ecuador for taking the lead in protecting wild life. One hopes that other governments will follow its lead. But given that the DW.com article adds that Germany’s Environment Agency “urged people to refrain from private fireworks on New Year’s Eve…to help prevent a drastic increase in fine dust pollution,” maybe the bigger goal should be to protect all living things by banning all fireworks. Says DW.com:

The agency estimates that around 4,500 tons of fine dust are blown into the air all over Germany on New Year’s Eve, with levels on January 1 higher than at any other time during the year.

“This corresponds to about 15.5 percent of the amount of particulate matter emitted by road traffic each year,” [agency head Maria] Krautzberger said, referring to the miniscule pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health.

We need to fundamentally address how we treat our environment and consider the implications of our way of living. Yes, people enjoy fireworks and it seems like innocent fun, but it isn’t. Many people are maimed by mishandling fireworks, the noise frightens animals, and the dust created with each explosion poses a serious threat to human health.

So kudos to Ecuador on its ban of noisy fireworks. Let’s hope it’s just the first of many steps leading to the end of an unnecessary and dangerous practice.

Just in time for New Year’s Eve

The Food and Drug Administration approves a drug that calms dogs afraid of fireworks and other loud noises. This is good news for pet owners who have tried–and failed–to deal with anxious pups.

Better news, of course, would be if every local government took the lead of Collecchio, Italy and mandated the use of quiet fireworks, which provide the display people love without the loud noise that torments man’s best friend. Gotta be cheaper than getting on the waiting list for Ford’s (yes the car company) kennel with noise-canceling technology.

A nice way to spend a lazy afternoon

Photo credit: Christopher Michel licensed under CC BY 2.0

Drop in and listen to the orcas. Matthew Taub, Atlas Obscura, writes about OrcaSound, an internet app that “allows citizen scientists to livestream the ocean sounds of the Pacific Northwest from anywhere in the world, to help gather data about the resident killer whales and their environs.” OrcaSound has a library of recordings that let you explore various ocean sounds.  Perfect for a leisurely holiday.

Whales and noise

Photo credit: Minette Layne licensed under CC BY 2.0

Finally some good news about the problem of ocean noise, courtesy of The Noise Curmudgeon: The Canadian government is establishing a project to monitor ocean noise and protect endangered whales.

Said Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to the minister of transportation, “[a]coustic disturbances, particularly underwater noise from vessels, are a problem for marine mammals such as the southern resident killer whales, who are having trouble finding the salmon, particularly Chinook salmon, that they need to flourish.” The goal is to study propeller noise and hull vibration, “the results of which could inform the design of new, quieter propellers.”

In these turbulent times, it’s good to see a government at least trying to do something to protect our natural environment.

What do ducks hear, and why we should care

Photo credit: Magda Ehlers from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

My focus is on human hearing and especially on finding a quiet restaurant in which to enjoy the meal and the conversation with my wife, but as a noise activist I learned about the adverse impacts of noise on animals, including birds and small mammals and fish and marine mammals.

This report in The New York Times looks at what ducks hear.

Why should we care? Because we should care about all living things on the face of the earth and in its waters.

And they all evolved in quiet.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Caterpillars hate noise too

 

Photo credit: Virginia Arboretum licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Erica Tennenhouse, Scientific American, writes about new research that shows traffic noise makes caterpillars’ hearts beat faster. Eventually, the article notes, the caterpillars become desensitized to the noise, but that comes at a price. Andy Davis, conservation physiologist at the University of Georgia, tells Tennenhouse that:

[The] desensitization could be problematic when the caterpillars become adults, Davis says. A rapid stress response is vital for monarch butterflies on their two-month journey to spend winters in Mexico, as they narrowly escape predators and fight wind currents. “What I think is happening [on roadsides] is their stress reactions get overwhelmed when they’re larvae and [could be] impaired when they travel to Mexico,” Davis says.

Every living thing is getting stressed out by our noise.