Noise Degrades Habitat

by Gray Merriam

Recent research is finding that noise is significantly reducting habitat suitability for many species. Long ago, reduction in bird nesting along noisy highways in the Netherlands cause planners to sink some highways in trenches or between berms to reduce the noise in habitats paralleling the roads. Recent studies show that noise increase of 5 to 10 decibels can reduce bird numbers by half.

Noise also causes changes in behaviour. Red foxes cross roads when there is less noise. European robins switch from daytime to nightime singing in noisy environments to decrease interference with their calls. Reed buntings show reduced pairing success in noisy areas. For some bats, increased traffic noise causes increased search time to find prey and decreased rates of prey capture.

Noise is now known to affect predator-prey interactions, mating signals, temporal movement patterns and physiological stress in addition to making some habitats unusable. Reducing noise exposure is found to quickly benefit ecological systems.

For more information see: Francis and Barber. 2013. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 11(6): 305-313.

Gray Merriam