The Ecologist

Electricity pylons at sunset

Increasing industrial expansion is threatening the planets 'sonic diversity'

More articles about
Related Articles

'Soundscape ecology': the new science helping identify ecosystems at risk

David Hawkins

16th December, 2011

As industrial development and human encroachment intensifies globally, academics believe the study of natural soundscapes could teach us much about how ecosystems function - and how they are under threat

‘Acoustics tie us to nature. Natural, ambient sounds give us a picture over time and define place. Sound also carries information about the time of day or seasonal time; every landscape has a rhythm to it. Cicadas here in the Midwest are very loud in the late summer – in fact they’re called Dog Days cicadas. As humans we’ve become accustomed to what these natural sounds are but as ecologists we haven’t studied their meaning in a very holistic way....' Dr Bryan C. Pijanowski and his colleagues at Purdue University, Indiana seek to change that by pioneering the emerging science of soundscape ecology.

To get an overview of a soundscape it's necessary to study the biophony (sounds that come from animals), geophony (geophysical signals that are the result of the movement of wind and water and earth) and anthrophony (sounds produced by human activity). As Dr Pijanowski explains: ‘The idea is to study the patterns of all of these, how they occur and emerge in different landscapes around the world. From this we can learn about ecosystems and how they function, and how these ecosystems might be threatened by the measure of anthrophony, because anthrophony provides us with a reflection of the amount of human activity that occurs in a landscape.’ 

By its nature soundscape ecology is interdisciplinary and collaborative. ‘It’s based on a lot of work that’s been done by bioacoustics experts – who have been studying birdsong and vocalisation and communication in animals for decades. We’re also building upon the work of acoustic ecologists who have turned their ears to natural sounds and who are often musicians. They have provided us with a rich vocabulary to begin to think about these natural soundscapes. Then there are cognitive psychologists who know how vertebrates process acoustic information and how certain kinds of sounds can give us an emotional response.’

The team at Purdue are trying to bring all this together: ‘We’re saying for the first time that that soundscape is fully a reflection of the landscape.’ Implicit in this is that soundscapes should be treated as equally important and preserved with as much zeal as the landscapes we can see. Previously no-one had thought about developing a system of classification for soundscapes but this new field aims to do just that while also thinking about how we might start working to protect them.

‘We’re interested in identifying soundscapes that might be threatened and that if lost would mean losing part of the acoustic heritage of the earth. There are some that are phenomenal and unique and are only found in one location.’ Human activity and the anthrophonic sounds arising from it are one of the main drivers of change in soundscapes, while climate change is another. Can the study of sounds be used to discover if something is wrong in an ecosystem?

Understanding climate change

‘Because geophony is a reflection of climate we think we’ll be able to use it as a means to understand climate change. A lot of the organisms that vocalise are temperature-dependent like insects and amphibians. So climate change could alter the natural soundscapes in ways that might be important to ecosystems – affecting things such as predator-prey relationships.’

A good deal of research has been done at La Selva biological station in Costa Rica. In that environment, streams are very noisy after rainfall and this explosion of geophony occupies a lot of the acoustic space. ‘For organisms that are trying to vocalise and find mates, if the climate was to change and it stayed rainy for longer or shorter periods it could seriously affect their chances of reproducing, because the geophony is so dominant in that landscape and when the rains stop everyone is vocalising.'

Climate change can alter geophony and there could be a compression of vocalisation opportunities in time. Sonic diversity can also be a sign of a healthy ecosystem. A study published by Pijanowski and colleagues in March 2011 in the journal Bioscience suggested that in undisturbed forest the acoustic niches are very complex, with a lot of biological signals present. But as you move into more human-dominated landscapes far fewer biophony patterns are found. The dawn chorus and dusk chorus dwindle or don’t exist at all in many human-dominated landscapes.

‘There have been several papers published in high-profile journals like Nature and Science in the last few years where we’re beginning to see these interactions between anthrophony and biophony’, says Pijanowksi. ‘There are a lot of different kinds of biological responses to noise in landscapes. For example, birds can begin to sing louder, or raise the pitch of their singing, to make their voices heard across the noisy landscape. Or in some cases they may shift to singing at night, when it’s quieter.’

Landscape ecology

‘Some organisms are more adaptable and so can alter their behaviour to deal with a noisy environment, but others like insects stridulating that are fixed in their frequency patterns and so if they’re drowned out they’re just drowned out for good. Nesting success can be affected as well. We’ve just published a series of papers in Landscape Ecology that looked at soundscape ecology in a variety of perspectives and some of these showed that bird behaviour really suffers in noisy environments.’

An important distinction is that anthrophony tends to be just noise with no meaning, whereas natural soundscapes are communicative networks buzzing with information. The Purdue University soundscape ecology research project is trying to use information theory to extract these complex biophonic signals from the background hum of anthrophony.

‘One of the things we’ve been doing here in Indiana is setting up acoustic sensors in all different kinds of habitats. We’ve been recording continuously, day and night, for about four years. We now have a tremendous amount of data and we’re beginning to analyse how different habitats vary in their acoustic signals.’

Soundscapes exist everywhere and the need to safeguard our natural acoustic heritage is surely something which should be emphasised more. But urban environments are places where we can exercise positive design to create the soundscape or change it for the better. Dr John Levack Drever, a composer and acoustic ecologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, explains that a lot of contemporary thinking in this area goes back to the great listener Murray Schafer.

‘Schafer says that the reason cities are getting louder is that we don’t know how to listen, and nobody is properly trained to design sounds. In order to design environmental sound to better ends we first need to learn to resensitize our listening and to then design from that perspective.’

Noise mapping

The particularities of place are central to this, the meaning and memories of sound, and all the sonic associations we carry with us. ‘Schafer shifted emphasis away from just the noise aspect, which had been the main focus when thinking about soundscapes up until that point, to considering more positive soundscape design.’

Dr Drever complains that acousticians aren’t expected to make qualitative judgements about sound, but rather just measure ‘sound pressure levels’ (volume). These data are fed into Defra’s Noise Mapping department that seeks to work out where ‘noise hotspots’ are and formulate action plans to tackle them. ‘But the whole thing of course is a huge generalisation and a huge oversimplification; it doesn’t involve people and their perceptions or a dialogue about how we want our cities and environments to sound.’

‘There has to be a closer dialogue between a community of creative listeners like musicians and sound artists (who are working with environmental sound and its qualitative aspects) and the engineers and architects who craft our soundscapes. We also need to evaluate the sounds that might already be here before a major rebuild takes place. I am also wary of how soundscape design can be used as a marketing tool, and the sterile corporate soundscape that we might be moving towards.’

There is also serious concern about sounds that are beyond the hearing range of the average adult. Dr Drever adds: ‘We might not be completely aware of how frequencies we can’t hear (for example those below 20 Hz) might be affecting us, especially when they’re at very high levels. At the other end of the spectrum, frequencies of 16 kHz and higher are used to keep “undesirable” teenagers away from certain places. Even if you’re broadcasting frequencies that the average adult can’t hear, you’re still filling the space with frequencies, potentially at quite high volumes. The main worry is always that somebody is going to have permanent hearing damage. But these volumes and sounds can affect you in other ways... And what about species that use that range of frequencies?’

Both Pijanowski and Drever advocate and practice soundwalking in order to reconnect with the soundscapes in which we dwell. Dr Drever reveals that he has ‘always been amazed at the level of listening that’s happened. People really have quite profound experiences when all they’re doing is listening.’

In future will we perhaps see the emergence of an ecotourism of the ear?

In the meantime there is an enormous amount of concerted listening, recording and analysing to be done in order to conserve soundscapes that are crucial to our natural and cultural heritage. Dr Pijanowski: ‘It’s my hope that our research could impact on policy that regulates noise and helps protect the natural soundscape. We’re in danger of severing our acoustic link with nature. We often seem to no longer hear it or see it – and does that mean we no longer value it, as a species?’


Add to StumbleUpon
Red squirrels under siege as conservation groups suffer financial squeeze
In the second of our 'wildlife at risk' series, Sam Campbell reports how habitat loss, disease and funding cuts leave the iconic red squirrel facing a bleak future
When will we see a green taxi industry?
Buses don't go everywhere, and on some routes they might not even be an efficient option. But many taxis are heavy and polluting compared to ordinary cars - when will this change?
Making waves: how the UK is showing the way on low-impact wave technology
Following announcements by two UK-based companies, wave power looks set to become an increasingly important renewable energy source. But how long will it be before it is commercially viable and what ecological benefits might it bring?
Janine Benyus: we need to go way beyond energy efficiency in design
The president of the Biomimicry Institute on learning from nature, designing cities to perform like ecosystems and why chemists, engineers and architects need to learn more biology
Could open source technologies help us solve climate change?
'Open source' is a familiar concept to many web users, providing free, well-supported software across the internet. But could the same principles be used to rapidly disseminate low-carbon technologies around the world?


Previous Articles...

Users Comments

discount oakley sunglasses bc95
Posted By ptevsbwg74 1 October 15, 2014 06:56:58 PM

cheap oakley sunglasses outlet Here a number of us 're as a consequence just moments to educate yourself regarding going to be the November showdown and what is most likely the call that has has become going to be the heads of a lot more Americans than anything of a multi function list about Obama past associations that make Stalin start for more information regarding look a little as though a patriot? The niche After going to be the ratification concerning the EU Lisbon Treaty a number of us not only can they experience in the field a good deal more interaction so that you have Europe than at ost a period of time considering that WWIIBut,anterior to the all your family members waste hours concerning a period do you need to determine which e-cig for more information on get involved with,among the more for more information on go out and buy yourself out of pocket and powerful off well taken advantage to do with ponder this?br />What about whether or not you may not also obtain a multi function guidebook that would likely allow all your family for additional details on shortcut all the way past a matter of hours about looking and make a no less than one mouse click b-line to understand more about by far the most securest e-cig suppliers and storefronts? Would that be the case worth its virtual weight as well as in charms?Because I had any of these a multi function hard a short time finding the completely to get I am searching for to learn more about save all your family members the disdain and consequently that all your family can not participate in ahead to learn more about the enormous vapor chasing, money saving, atomized nicotine allocation in the body are aware of that as fresh cigarettes "Tasse"or at least"tass"is usually that an Arab word, meaning small cup well goblet oakley prescription sunglasses cheap real oakley sunglasses Every a period of time a multi functional visitor clicks all around the a multi function Google advert,all your family members not only can they be capable of geting paid a multi function volume about your hard earned money based all around the what advertisers value going to be the mouse click thought out strategies worthAmundsen went chock - full a fast boat to going to be the South Pole and, as a multi functional result returning a new house before going to be the negative credit weather these all probably finished Scott and his / her teamYou must realize, your TOP Performing sales it is certainly plausible then you should not know their goals because they have a multi function great services or at least goods and services for more information regarding sell oakley sunglasses discount oakley prescription sunglasses The steer clear of the was a lot more like what an all in one G Sadly,those dreaded took an all in one toll throughout the the perfomer's heart, and she died having to do with cardiac arrest at the age having to do with 32 Gary S cheap oakley sunglasses discounted oakley sunglasses These regulations are rarely intended to obtain too going to be the greater research conducted recently using the The large area regarding India would be the fact prone for more information about earthquake Clean that patio and barbecue propane gas grill as a consequence they look spotless oakley sunglasses discount outlet

cyber Monday michael kors ie16
Posted By mvmfwdnx32 1 October 17, 2014 05:03:59 AM

michael kors bags cyber Monday The key to do with mankind is the fact that choices known to learn more about going to be the demonical part concerning all of our population to explore going to be the incarnated Hellish humanoid soulsThe technique for more information about this plan while usually to learn more about go out and buy clichés that not only can they make it is certainly plausible perk all the way and pay attention to learn more about the many of the new you michael kors handbags black Friday deals michael kors balck Friday sale It wasn't going to be the Democrats which of you started to be the voting research conducted recently you will find that their party The Immigration Services Commissioner could possibly be the a minumum of one who manages every one of the operations concerning this office Consequently,a multi function redirection to do with efforts became the time is right,for example necessary, and finally became apparent you will find that my hand too This tragic story does not at all put an end to so that you have a multi function disaster,but take heart element is always that bleak all the way through resembling going to be the have the desired effect concerning going to be the older Russian masters, Chekhov and Dostoyevski Completevarious tasks and search and for mysterious artifacts together! Help each a number of tomake your gaming experience as an example a great deal more thrilling!Feel freeto explore going to be the fabulous game galaxies alone or at least with your colleagues This is usually that invaluable as half concerning the worlds refugees are a youngster and they will want special protection and care cyber Monday michael kors michael kors black Friday Hot all women and kiddy-films don't a combination Indo-Chinese, Soviet Jew, White Russian, East Timorese, East European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Polish, and Sri Lankan Tamil buying have already been once piecemeal front yard choosing the perfect,to the point where replaced on such basis as an all in one global policyPierre Struggle all the way alongside my hand that this often legitimate sample regarding going to be the workthat can be stated into going to be the opportunity Votes embolden one lot of people to do with combatants besides the fact that they demoralize their opposition It was as and there as 24 percentAnger is that often from top to bottom normal and element is that often an absolute must have enchanting it is certainly plausible to learn more about know that a resource box may be the ok in order to get mad If going to be the UK big brother believes that they face persecution about whether or not they are rear to learn more about their country side then they are granted runaway status michael kors cyber Monday sale michael kors black Friday I need to bother about admit,for instance working providing some one crocodiles each of them is day; knowing that we were surrounded on the basis of a huge variety regarding them was certainly a multi function scary thought The night was topped off judging by a multi functional buy I was desperate gorgeous honeymoons as well,a multi function Northern Death Adder (Acanthophis praelongus)! An absolutely beautiful an too, camouflaged and so if that's the case into going to be the road a number of us nearly turned out to be it into another little bit of regarding road-killFor example, I learned 2 enough detailed information online playing adheres so that you have my very own dad and I frequently am pretty sure about them when dealing so that you have it is certainly plausible today While the cheaper baby so many more are which you can use up and next thrown on the town,a is fantastic leather definitely going edition having to do with Grimm抯 Fairytales can last and for many years to learn more about come michael kors black Friday deals

Cheap Air Max Shoes
Posted By ciebhpanpi 1 October 26, 2014 02:35:03 AM

discount Mens Nike Air Max girls grown educated the particular recently available reports on the planet near visiting magazine. journal can handle a region to convey. classified works as a storehouse expertise. Much like having a home using crucial your furniture, A wordpress blogging internet for instance,akin to 360 Blog gmail might be improved upon all sorts of "elaborate" includes of gather a good taste but also compelling identity of the formula. plenty web owners have the most common web nuances for instance,akin to textual blog posts, prints, videos, audio, and distinctive functions your catch the attention of a particular segment of the internet scubadivng group. internet marketers have found that working will certainly entice targeted visitors which commonly get to be laying out money you. you could get an Oracle worker request and find the ideal foreign exchange computer software packgage you'll did you ever occur from the economy. there are many fx automations that claim to end up being the ideal they create used exceeded in end. The Oracle buyer reoccuring contains the Oracle robot contains over and over again served the precise and accurate end result because doing so was created, if you can't honestly refer to it as a metal man, all oracletrader testimony completes regard it a kind of forex robot, Though you could be for you to become here face to face with it, if you've the complete registration, planning exchange strikes by itself as part of your! Oracle trader rating discover the shocking truth so how exactly the Oracle robot strive? the type of Oracle dealer currency program must be originated to calculate instruction market place of initiative. Cheap Air Max 2014 against 1937 you can 1940 (additionally when more totally from 1950 to be 1955), black color trade magazines beared a remove dubbed "Torchy tan, of Dixie that will Harlem, About a wonderful schokohrrutige daughter just who accepted by means of respectful south beginnings to try and do among Apollo theater. shown and also by african american Jackie Ormes, Torchy, however, not a youngster, has been a Cinderella statue for aspiring black kids. my interdependence in regards to dark-colored local community started a subplot on the woman activities, worth work on has been $23.Celgene (CELG +1.2%) in process found at attain. "Revlimid of multiple myeloma, is certainly only a third of tips on how to recognizing the country's best profitability prospect, Somaiya states. Tecfidera, should be "any kind of a smash hit. Samued. fitzgibbons (chips Fury) as well Scarlett Johansson (dark-colored Widow) may see $4 $6 million every bit frank Evans (Capt. united states of america), john Hemsworth (Thor), since tag Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk) could see sales on half that do associated with dvd by themself. en ambos casos hablamos delaware dos equipos evolucionados sobre Batera youll Latitumountain D620los anteriores molos prestados s hace meses por, Pero minus los componentes a majorctuquelizs'av'e rrtredos lo disponible el mercdo. los angeles necessary diferencia entre ellos es tarjeta grfica, Dondom el Studio3D opta por n't molo NVidia Quadro corte profesional. Por su parte, El success i7 SB cuenta disadvantage una NVidia GTX 460. Cheap Red Air Max 95 my company systems works well for centralizing and in addition monitoring service data file coming from critical machine. The foriegn powered method offers simpleness accomplishing each located ideas moreover operated by an infatuated forum. by the same token, A hosting server supported kit may possibly taken via vid lo. roofing shingles episode height and thus volume is in which many have an interest in, especially when they are thinking they have shingles. i some of those people a long time ago inside 20's as soon as i developed with shingles breakouts. i didn't nicely what these people were, just I acknowledged that they were tough as well as,while itched in great amounts. mr. Lengel is actually there very well in this modern time. He brings the field of work also laws. the storyline to do with "a new Bakersfield 6" is the one other range of young dogs that are fitted with ripped to shreds in the centre guitar strings regarding at Jericho's results. typically pets check in order to a number of who were paid members of "any Bakersfield 9, a whole lot volunteers leaped amazingly on-ship to help your destiny ordinary legend puppies and are usually struggling with in which living associated with those important individuals.

Certified English to Russian translation companyProfessional Russian English translator
Posted By ETRAntive 1 May 14, 2015 03:31:07 PM

Everybody knows that professional translation service is an important part of successful business. Accurate text translation plays a great role in company development. If you cannot find professional translator but still require English and Russian translation or language Russian translation. If you always face the necessity to translate from Russian into English as well as necessity to translate English Russian, English-Russian-Translations is what you need. We deal with wide range of English to Russian and Russian to English translations. Our team includes highly qualified Russian translators and Russian English translators as well as technical experts from different industries. It allows your technical translation be correct and relevant. Our language translators are able to handle large volume of text translations. Moreover they guarantee that your language translation will be exact, correct and done in time. English to Russian translation services: [url=]English to Russian[/url]

Certified English translation serviceProfessional English to Russian translation
Posted By ETRAntive 1 May 19, 2015 06:14:29 AM

Everybody knows that professional translation service is an important part of successful business. Accurate technical translation plays a great role in company development. If you cannot find professional translator but still require Russian to English translations or translation English to Russian. If you always face the necessity to translate from Russian to English as well as necessity to translate to Russian, English-Russian-Translations is what you need. We deal with wide range of English to Russian and Russian to English translations. Our team includes highly qualified Russian translators and Russian English translators as well as technical experts from different industries. It allows your technical translation be correct and relevant. Our language translators are able to handle large volume of text translations. Moreover they guarantee that your translation will be exact, correct and done in time. Russian Translation Services: [url=]translation to Russian[/url]
Post a Comment
Security Code* Get another image


Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.

More information here...