Noise pollution is invading even the most protected natural areas

May 5, 2017

By Ula Chrobak

The great outdoors is becoming a lot less peaceful. Noise pollution from humans has doubled sound levels in more than half of all protected areas in the United States—from local nature reserves to national parks—and it has made some places 10 times louder, according to a new study. And the cacophony isn’t just bad for animals using natural sounds to hunt and forage—it could also be detrimental to human health.

The study, which maps noise levels across the United States, is “a call to arms,” says Nathan Kleist, an ecologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, who was not involved in the work. The noise maps could help scientists identify key areas to keep quiet, such as critical habitats for endangered species, he adds. “If you’re missing noise, you’re missing a huge driver of habitat suitability.”

Noise pollution—from honking cars to clanging construction equipment—can disturb sleep, cause stress, and impair concentration. In 1972, U.S. officials enacted the Noise Control Act, which gave the Enironmental Protection Agency the authority to impose limits on noise from motor vehicles and machinery. But regulators have largely ignored noise in parks, wilderness, and other protected areas, which cover 14% of the country. And 80% of the United States—including many parks and protected areas—is now within 1 kilometer of a road, thanks to rapidly growing residential and industrial areas.

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2 comments on “Noise pollution is invading even the most protected natural areas

  • @OP – Noise pollution from humans has doubled sound levels in more than half of all protected areas in the United States—
    from local nature reserves to national parks—
    and it has made some places 10 times louder, according to a new study.
    And the cacophony isn’t just bad for animals using natural sounds to hunt and forage—
    it could also be detrimental to human health.

    .. .. . . . and it’s not only on land!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-39786059

    Seals may experience hearing loss from underwater vessel noise, researchers at the University of St Andrews have said.

    The study compares seals inhabiting the UK’s busy shipping lanes to humans living in noisy cities.

    Lead author Esther Jones said noise could affect how sea mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals find food and communicate with each other.

    Eleven out of 25 conservation areas linked with seals were at high risk of overlap with shipping, the study found.

    The paper has been published by the Journal of Applied Ecology.

    Ecologist Dr Jones, a research fellow at the university, said: “Like humans living in busy, noisy cities, some seals live in areas where there is a lot of shipping traffic and associated noise.

    “The UK has some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and underwater noise has been increasing over the last 30 years.”

    The team investigated the underwater noise levels generated by vessels that individual animals were exposed to in the Moray Firth using predictive acoustic noise models.

    For 20 out of the 28 animals observed in the study, the levels of predicted noise were high enough that temporary hearing loss could occur.

    The university said there was no evidence that seals were exposed to noise levels high enough to cause permanent hearing damage.

    Dr Jones added: “Urbanisation of the marine environment is inevitably going to continue, so chronic ocean noise should be incorporated explicitly into marine spatial planning and management plans for existing marine protected areas.”



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