Animals to humans: Be quiet, already


Numerous experiments with birds and other species suggest that noise acts as an obstacle — something to be avoided — that can alter animals’ movements.

One striking experiment used recorded noise to create a “phantom road.” Decades of research have shown a reduction in density and diversity of species near roads but, says Kurt Fristrup, chief scientist for the U.S. National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, “the perceived view before this work is that noise was not considered to be a primary agent [of disturbance].” To test that assumption, researchers from Boise State University hung speakers on trees in a forested area in Idaho, broadcast the sounds of traffic recorded in Glacier National Park, and observed the impacts on migrating birds that included warblers, flycatchers, cedar waxwings, robins and mountain chickadees.

“The surprising thing that emerged was that the same thing happened with no other factors” associated with roads, such as visual disturbance, collisions, habitat destruction or chemical pollution, says Fristrup, who helped with the study. With noise as the only disruption, the researchers found a more than one-quarter decline in bird abundance along the phantom road and almost complete avoidance by some species.

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article: Elizabeth Grossman
photo: /IMNATURE


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