Human noise pollution makes it harder for marine life to get along

“Imagine having to raise your kids in a noisy place all the time. It’s no wonder that many marine animals exhibit high and detectable levels of stress due to noise, ”said Joe Roman, marine ecologist at the University of Vermont.

Not only do humans change the surface and temperature of the planet, but also its sounds – and these changes are detectable even in the open sea, According to research released Thursday.

Changes in the ocean’s soundscape affect large swathes of marine life, from tiny snapping prawns to huge right whales, the researchers found. “Sounds travel very far underwater. For fish, sound is probably a better way to sense their environment than light, ”said Francis Juanes, an ecologist at the University of Victoria in Canada and co-author of the review article in the journal. Science.

While light tends to scatter in water, he said, sounds travel much faster in water than in air.

Many fish and marine animals use sound to communicate with each other, to locate promising places to breed or feed, and possibly to detect predators. For example, brittle shrimp produce a popcorn-like sound that stuns their prey. The songs of humpback whales can sound like the melodies of a violinist.

But increased noise from shipping traffic, motorized fishing boats, underwater oil and gas exploration, offshore construction, and other human activities are making it harder for fish to s hear.

Researchers sifted through thousands of datasets and research papers documenting changes in noise volume and frequency to paint a comprehensive picture of the changing ocean soundscape and the impact of the sound. marine life.

Using underwater microphones, scientists can record the sounds of fish, which tend to oscillate around the same low frequencies as the noise of marine traffic.

“For many marine species, their attempts at communication are obscured by sounds that humans have introduced,” said Carlos Duarte, marine ecologist at the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia and co-author of the article.

The Red Sea is one of the world’s main shipping corridors, full of large ships traveling to Asia, Europe and Africa. Some fish and invertebrates now avoid the noisier areas because sound effectively fragments their Red Sea habitat, he said.

Meanwhile, the total number of marine animals has declined by about half since 1970. In parts of the ocean, scientists now record “fewer animals singing and calling than in the past – those voices have disappeared “said Duarte.

Climate change is also influencing the physical processes that shape ocean sounds, such as winds, waves and melting ice, the researchers found.

“Imagine having to raise your kids in a noisy place all the time. It’s no wonder that many marine animals exhibit high and detectable stress levels due to noise, ”said Joe Roman, a marine ecologist at the University of Vermont, who was not involved in the article.

“When people think of threats to the ocean, we often think of climate change, plastics and overfishing. But noise pollution is another essential thing that we need to watch out for, ”said Neil Hammerschlag, a University of Miami marine ecologist who was not involved in the document. “If you’re doing something for the ocean, think about how to make it quieter. “

Noise pollution may be easier to deal with than other ocean threats, said Juanes of the University of Victoria. “In theory, you can turn the sound off or off immediately – it’s not like plastics or climate change, which are much harder to undo.”

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