Noise& animals

Environmental pollution noise
Although we probably don’t even think about it, noise is one of the most significant environmental pollutants.

Noise has an impact on habitat
Many animal species use acoustic signals to communicate, search for food or orient themselves. What impact does noise have?

Animals can adapt to a limited extent
Some species can adapt to noise. But what happens to the species that can’t??

Animal species hear individually
Not all animal species hear in the same frequency range: what do bats and dolphins have in common?

Do without fireworks for the sake of the animals
Bang events put animals in fear and terror. What consequences can fireworks have?

Noise protection as animal protection
How to protect animals from noise?

Environmental pollution Noise

Most of us don’t think of noise first when we think of pollution. Although noise is often forgotten, its effects are just as devastating. The effects of anthropogenic noise on animal populations are still poorly understood. However, studies show that noise generated by human activities is one of the main disturbance factors for animals. Both aquatic and terrestrial animals are affected by the effects of noise. Hardly any animal group is spared by noise.

Noise has an impact on habitat

Acoustic signals play an important role for many animals. They are important, for example, as a means of communication, in the search for food or for orientation. Noise alters the perception of the environment and can therefore influence animal behavior. Man-made noise is often in the frequencies in which animals communicate. Thus, noise disturbs practically all animal species, but in different ways. Because species respond differently, noise can even alter the composition of an ecosystem and its function. The impact of noise on biodiversity is directly measurable. Species diversity is reduced along busy roads. The effect of noise can be observed over several hundred meters. McClure et al studied traffic noise experimentally on a roadless landscape – with noise as the only disturbing factor for the bird population. A decrease of bird populations by more than a quarter and an almost complete disappearance of some species has been observed. This suggests that traffic noise is a major factor in the impact of roads on animal populations.

Noise& animals

For three different bird species, the density of breeding pairs is recorded as a function of the noise level. For all three species, breeding pair density decreases with higher noise levels.

Grasshoppers disappear from adjacent meadows after road construction. Songbirds are less likely to nest at noise-exposed sites than in comparable habitats. The graph above illustrates this effect. Breeding pair density (breeding pairs per unit area) for marsh warblers, fitits and willow tits decreases as noise levels increase.

Animals can adapt to a limited extent

Not all species react the same way to noise. Some species have managed to adapt to the noise. During noise events black sided frogs stop their call, great tits increase their call rate and orcas prolong their calls. Other ways to maintain communication despite noise is to adjust the volume or frequency. This can explain high biodiversity in noisy places, z.B. at Kloten airport. However, not all species have such behavioral adaptations. Beaked whale species change their dive profile when exposed to noise, which can lead to decompression sickness and death. Large mouse ears have difficulty locating their prey in noisy environments, and colorful shovel-foot toads are disturbed during their summer sleep. If animal species cannot adapt to noise, this can lead to extinction if noise exposure is high. However, noise can occasionally have a positive effect on a species if its main enemy or competitor disappears due to noise pollution. Read more about "Effect of noise on animals" in the document of the same name.

Great tit, source: Pixabay

Despite high noise pollution, some airports have a high biodiversity.

Animal species hear individually

Not all animals use the same frequencies for communication. Bats and dolphins specialize in very high frequencies, while elephants and blue whales use low frequencies. The perceptible frequency range is very variable in the animal kingdom and covers the entire range from infra- to ultrasound. Also, some animals can hear extremely soft sounds. Animals are therefore often able to perceive sounds that humans cannot hear. Very high-pitched sounds are used in screeching systems, such as cat screeches. For animals that can hear these frequencies, such devices represent noise pollution.

Avoid fireworks for the sake of the animals

Short but loud sound events (bangs) are rare in nature. For animals, bangs mean danger and make them panic, animals startle or run away. Birds and flight animals, such as deer or brown hares, are particularly affected. Not infrequently, such panic reactions are the cause of accidents. Animals can also suffer hearing damage from bangs. An example of artificial bangs is the firing of fireworks.

The bang of fireworks makes animals panic.
Source: Pixabay

Noise protection as animal protection

Noise leads to habitat degradation. Therefore, animals should also be protected from noise wherever possible. The most effective measures are at the source of noise. But setting up quiet zones or providing compensatory areas also provides animals with a lower-noise environment. This is the only way to guarantee that we will continue to have a diverse and healthy natural environment in the future.

Compensatory areas provide animals with a low-noise environment.
Source: Pixabay

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