If Animals Could Talk... They'd Say, 'Keep It Down Out There, We're Trying to Breed!'

european tree frog hyla arborea photo

Missed connection: European tree frogs are sending out fewer mating calls due to noise pollution. Photo by Andrei Daniel Mihalca via Wikimedia Commons.

It's driving people crazy in Cairo, boosting risks of heart disease and high blood pressure in San Francisco, and, according to a new study, keeping animals from mating and hunting successfully. Is it a dangerous new disease or a side effect of global warming? Nope, just too much noise.Though the effect of noise on whales' abilities to feed, mate, and migrate has been noted before, a recent scientific review shows that many more types of wild animals are at risk -- even those living in U.S. national parks.

Biodiversity at Risk
"Noise pollution is so ubiquitous that it may be a factor in some large-scale declines in biodiversity," Dr. Jesse Barber of Colorado State University, one of three co-authors of "The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms," told the BBC.

Published in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the article compiles a long list of ways in which high levels of human-caused noise -- the result of vehicles, oil and gas development, and urban sprawl -- are negatively affecting animals.

"Female grey tree frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) exposed to the sounds of passing traffic take longer to locate and find calling males, while European tree frogs (Hyla arborea) call less overall," the BBC's Matt Walker writes. And unlike the great tit, a bird that has been found to sing at higher frequencies in order to be heard over the urban din, neither of the amphibians have shown signs of being able to adapt.

Birds, Bats Avoiding Roads
While decreases seen in the species richness of primates and carnivores near roads in Africa could be attributed to the risk of collisions with vehicles, even birds and bats that could fly above the traffic are avoiding such areas. In the Netherlands, 60 percent of woodland bird species avoid roads, and a species of gleaning bat found across Europe has been shown to be "less likely to cross roads than other bat species that forage in open areas, suggesting the noise of the traffic could fragment their hunting grounds."

Even areas protected against other environmental threats, such as national parks, are not safe havens from noise. According to the U.S. National Park Service's Natural Sounds Program, there is audible artificial noise -- from nearby roads, or from planes flying overhead -- during more than one-fourth of daylight hours at the majority of park sites studied thus far.

"Quiet places are especially vulnerable to noise intrusions, because even distant sources can have an impact," says Dr. Barber, who suggests implementing "quieter road surfaces, noise barriers, appropriate signage in protected areas, and, most importantly, restriction of motorized travel in protected natural areas." Via: "Noise pollution threatens animals," BBC Earth News
More about noise pollution:
Airports Can Cut Noise & Pollution by Having Planes Taxi with One Engine Turned Off
Soundproof your Space the Eco-Friendly Way
Noise Pollution... the other Green Means of Electric
New Air and Noise Control Devices Promise Better Life-Quality in Buenos Aires
Environmental Science Teacher Finds Teachable Moment Amid Classroom Noise

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