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Scientists listen to habitats awakening in spring

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US News has a good piece today on Bryan Pijanowski’s research team at Purdue, about how the new field of soundscape ecology may help us to understand ecosystem dynamics and changes.

This April, when you step outside and hear the first sounds of spring, you won’t be hearing just songbirds and buzzing insects, but aural evidence of an awakening ecosystem. The emerging science of soundscape ecology is building on the established field of bioacoustics to create a new way of gauging ecosystem health and diversity—by listening.

“Natural sounds can be used like a canary in a coal mine, as a critical first indicator of environmental changes,” said Bryan Pijanowski, an ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Pijanowski and his colleagues outlined their vision of soundscape ecology in the March issue of BioScience. The new field will take a much broader approach to collecting and evaluating sound than ever before, although the authors caution that no coherent theory yet exists to categorize the ecological significance of all the sounds emanating from a landscape.

Scientists have been using sound as a tool for studying the natural world for some time, mainly through bioacoustics, the study of sounds made by animals. But most of these studies tend to focus on one or two individuals at a time, said Jesse Barber, a sensory ecologist at Boise State University in Idaho, who was not part of Pijanowski’s team.

“Using sound to try to discern something about the ecosystem as a whole is what is novel about soundscape ecology,” Barber said.

Follow the link at the top of this post to read the whole article.

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