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Moderate noise changes bird communities

Bioacoustics, Effects of Noise on Wildlife, Science, Wind turbines Add comments

Research summary of Francis, C.D., Ortega, C.P., Cruz, A. 2011. Noise pollution filters bird communities based on vocal frequency. PLoS ONE 6(11):e27052.

An ongoing research project in New Mexico continues to shed more detailed light on the question of how moderate human noise affects nearby wildlife.  In a study design that effectively separates out the impact of the noise from other habitat disruption effects, Clint Francis and his colleagues are finding that some species are displaced, while others seem to thrive in areas with coalbed methane compressor stations creating noise around the clock.  The most recent paper to be published by Francis et al finds that species that sing at lower frequencies are most likely to avoid the noisy areas, while those who vocalize at higher frequencies are more apt to be unaffected or even thrive.

While this research studies an area with oil and gas development noise, it’s likely that similar effects would occur in and near wind farms, which also produce predominantly low-frequency noise. And, as the authors note to conclude their paper: “At the community-level, we must still determine whether noise is an agent of ecological filtering for other taxa that rely on acoustic communication.”

Rather than doing the full AEI lay-summary of the most recent paper, I want to point you to the great summary already written by Caitlin Kight, biologist who studies the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on animals; it was recently featured on her Anthrophysis blog.

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