Researchers document the impacts of noise on marine animals and ecosystems and identify actions to restore healthy ocean sounds
By Sonia Fernandez
Friday, February 5, 2021 - 08:00
Santa Barbara, CA
Rain falls lightly on the ocean’s surface. Marine mammals chirp and squeal as they swim along. The pounding of surf along a distant shoreline heaves and thumps with metronomic regularity. These are the sounds that most of us associate with the marine environment. But the soundtrack of the healthy ocean no longer reflects the acoustic environment of today’s ocean, plagued with human-created noise.
A global team of researchers set out to understand how human-made noise affects wildlife, from invertebrates to whales, in the oceans, and found overwhelming evidence that marine fauna, and their ecosystems, are negatively impacted by noise. This noise disrupts their behavior, physiology, reproduction and, in extreme cases, causes mortality. The researchers call for human-induced noise to be considered a prevalent stressor at the global scale and for policy to be developed to mitigate its effects.
The research, led by Carlos M. Duarte, distinguished professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and published in the journal Science, is eye-opening to the global prevalence and intensity of the impacts of ocean noise. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have made the planet, the oceans in particular, noisier through fishing, shipping, infrastructure development and more, while also silencing the sounds from marine animals that dominated the pristine ocean.