Soundscape ecology (part 1)


After covering noise pollution for the past 2 months, it was about time I try out soundscape ecology for myself and actually see how prominent the effects of noise pollution are!

In my second blog post, I mentioned how noise pollution affects birds. They change the pitch of their calls to make themselves heard or when it gets unbearable, they leave their habitat. My hypothesis going into this mini experiment is that noise pollution has a negative impact on birds, and the variable I used to measure negative impact was frequency of calls. A lower frequency of calls would mean that there are either fewer birds in the area or the birds intentionally stayed silent (perhaps to wait for the noise to pass or because they figured out it is unlikely that their calls would be heard). Birds were the most accessible animal to me because of how widespread they are in Singapore, that’s why I specifically picked them for my project.

Ideally, I would need an acoustic monitor to record sounds over at least 24 hours, but as a soundscape beginner I had to work with what I had. The closest I could get to a recording device is my phone, but I didn’t have a way to translate the recording into a visual (oscillograms/spectrograms), so I decided to just manually tally each time I heard a bird call. I visited two noisy areas and two quieter areas across a few days during 7am-9am (when birds are most active), and stayed at each spot for 30 mins to record down bird calls. I then took the average number of calls per minute and compared the frequency.

Where I was compared to where Changi airport is

Dr Coleman recommended me Jermain Cho and Cheong Hui Ping’s past studies and I took some inspiration for locations from them. They mainly visited green spaces near airports so I decided to visit Changi Beach Park, which is the closest I could get to Changi Airport (without trespassing). For my second noisy spot, I decided to pick a construction site near my home where a train station was being built, with large trees nearby (so I could ensure that there were birds in that area).

Planes were able to come pretty close to the beach (Source: me)

For the two quieter areas, I decided to go with green spaces that I knew had fairly little human activity. Labrador nature reserve was my first quiet spot and my second spot was lower pierce reservoir. For both areas, I kind of just wandered deep into the trail and sat there for 30 mins. To be honest, it was a little creepy sitting alone in the middle of a dark, quiet trail (I was literally the only person there the entire time), but I guess it’s good to get away from all the noise once in a while. I am not even kidding when I say all I heard were birds, squirrels and a TON of cicadas, no traffic noise at all.

Labrador nature reserve trail (Source: me)
Start of lower pierce reservoir trail (Source: me)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week I will be discussing the results and findings so stay tuned 🙂

 

The future of noise pollution

After writing about and researching noise pollution over the past 2 months, I want to just reflect on the problem of noise pollution in general. It does make me wonder: What is the future of noise pollution? Is it getting worse or is there a possibility for some improvement?

The current global pandemic situation has reduced noise pollution by quite a fair bit (Ro, 2020). Travel restrictions mean lesser flights and cruises, and working from home means lesser traffic on the roads. However, the pandemic won’t last forever and noise pollution will most likely bounce back in the next few years. It is also predicted that more people are moving from rural to urban areas, and in 2025 more than half of the world’s population will be city dwellers (Reubold, 2013). Thus, noise pollution might not just return to its previous state, but get even worse.

Electric car. Source: Pixabay

Despite this, can improvements in technology somehow offset the increase in noise population brought about by increased city population? Electric cars, besides being more environmentally friendly, produce much less noise than internal combustion engine vehicles (which are vehicles that run on petrol/diesel) (Hawkins, 2019). Airplanes have also been redesigned to be softer, following the Federal Aviation Administration regulation that requires all new aircraft to reduce noise produced by seven decibels (Rizzo, 2017). While the number of electric cars users are increasing (Carroll, 2020), and it is compulsory for planes to be quieter, the shipping industry paints a different picture. As mentioned in my fourth blog post, there is new technology available that allows ships to produce less noise, however there is currently no mandate or incentive (Lubofsky, 2016). This has resulted in little to no action taken to reduce noise pollution in the commercial shipping industry.

Reduction of noise pollution on land seems to be more promising in the future, as compared to in the ocean. This could be due to the fact that noise pollution on land affects humans way more than noise pollution at sea, leading us to scramble to find ways to bring the noise level down for the sake of public health. While the true intention behind the noise reduction measures on land is mainly to improve the wellbeing of humans and not that of wildlife, at least there are still some spillover benefits to terrestrial animals. However, this attitude of only reducing noise pollution for the benefit of humans will put marine animals at risk. There are no humans out at sea (except those operating ships), and humans cannot hear the low frequency sounds that make up underwater noise pollution, so does this mean that we are allowed to not care? I can understand why authorities prefer to solve issues that affect human health first but it is crucial for humans to not turn a blind eye to issues that don’t directly affect us because we are not the only ones inhabiting this planet.

 

 

References:

Ro, C. (2020). Is Coronavirus Reducing Noise Pollution? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinero/2020/04/19/is-coronavirus-reducing-noise-pollution/#33761d41766f

Reubold, T. (2013). The Global Population in 2100. Retrieved from https://ensia.com/infographics/the-global-population-in-2100/

Hawkins, A. J. (2019). Electric car owners could choose which fake sounds their cars make under new proposal. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/16/20869035/electric-car-ev-fake-noise-nhtsa

Rizzo, C. (2017). Airplanes Are About to Get Quieter – Here’s Why That’s a God Thing. Retrieved from https://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/airplane-path-noise-regulation#:~:text=Beginning%20January%201%2C%202018%2C%20the,currently%20flying%20over%20U.S.%20skies.

Carroll, J. (2020). Electric car sales are on the rise – is coronavirus a turning point for the market? Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/electric-car-sales-are-on-the-rise-is-coronavirus-a-turning-point-for-the-market-144706#:~:text=But%20one%20segment%20of%20the,but%20also%20in%20absolute%20terms.

Lubofsky, E. (2016). Commercial Ships Could Be Quieter, but They Aren’t. Retrieved from https://www.hakaimagazine.com/news/commercial-ships-could-be-quieter-they-arent/

 

 

 

Can noise pollution attract animals?

So far, I have been writing about how noise pollution can be harmful to wildlife. Most animals back away from the noise, but this led me to wonder whether there are any cases in which the animals actually get drawn to noise pollution. Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

There has to be a reason why animals are attracted to things that harm them, and in the case of noise pollution, I found two main possibilities: Firstly, noise signifies a safe area, and secondly, noise signifies easy prey.

An example of the first reason would be the black-chinned hummingbirds. In my second blog post, I mentioned birds leaving their habitat due to noise pollution. The bird in question is the western scrub jay, and their prey, the black-chinned hummingbird, thrive in their absence. Black-chinned hummingbirds intentionally head to noisier areas because their predators have been driven out (NSF, 2012). If the noise pollution can chase away other birds, it must pretty unbearable for the hummingbirds too, but perhaps their own safety from predators is more important to them. Another example is birds gathering at airports because they deem it a safe place, away from predators (Matyjasiak, 2008). Airports are extremely noisy (I wouldn’t want to stand next to an airplane taking off), but the birds seem to love it so much that airport staff have specialised deterrence systems to chase them away. Once again, maybe the birds would rather put their hearing at risk for safety, or could they have somewhat adapted to not be affected by the noise?

Black-chinned hummingbird. Source Pixabay

For the second reason, the relationship between fishing vessels and various whales illustrates how animals can get conditioned to associate noise pollution with easy prey. This video shows how orcas and humpback whales congregate near fishing vessels to feed off fish that might have slipped out of the nets, a very easy meal compared to hunting. This behaviour has been observed in sperm whales too. What attracts them to the fishing vessels is actually the noise pollution from ships, the very thing that harms them. The main sources of underwater noise pollution, ship engine noise and propeller cavitation, are exactly what signal the whales to come and feed (Thode et al., 2007; Tixier et al., 2019). Loud noises have been used to try to discourage the whales from gathering around the vessels, but the whales just see the deterrents as another signal for food. The whales’ behaviour gives the impression that the noise pollution doesn’t affect them that much… and this is sadly true because it is speculated that their hearing might have been damaged to the point where they are able to tolerate this barrage of noises (Keartes, 2017).

I couldn’t find a free to use picture of orcas swarming fishing boats but the video linked in the paragraph above shows this very well! Source: Pixabay

I’m digressing a bit but I find it captivating to study and understand animal behaviours. Despite the harm posed by noise pollution, these animals still willingly go towards it. Is the reward that great where it outweighs the lifelong effects of hearing loss? And before the hearing loss sets in, it must have hurt to experience all that noise close up, yet these animals still return to the site time and time again. This is truly some fascinating stuff if you ask me…

 

References:

NSF. (2012). Human Noise Has Ripple Effects on Plants. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123538

Matyjasiak, P. (2008). Methods of bird control at airports. Theorectical and applied aspects of modern ecology, 171-203. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233389769_Methods_of_bird_control_at_airports#:~:text=Birds%20are%20attracted%20to%20airports,and%20bathing%20at%20the%20airport.

Thode, A. M., Straley, J., Tiemann, C. O., Folkert, K. (2007). Observations of potential acoustic cues that attract sperm whales to longline fishing in the Gulf of Alaska. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 122(2), 1265-1277. DOI: 10.1121/1.2749450

Tixier, P., Burch. P., Richard, G., Olsson, K., Welsford, D., Lea, M., Hindell, M. A., Guinet, C., Janc, A., Gasco, N., Duhamel, G., Villanueva, M. C., Suberg, L., Arangio, R., Soffker, M., Arnould, J. P Y. (2019). Commercial fishing patterns influence odontocete whale-longline interactions in the Southern Ocean. Sci Rep 9, 1904. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-36389-x

Keartes, S. (2017). Catch-stealing orcas are charging after fishing boats – and into harm’s way. Retrieved from https://www.earthtouchnews.com/conservation/human-impact/catch-stealing-orcas-are-charging-after-fishing-boats-and-into-harms-way/

 

 

 

Sound and climate change (part 2)

Climate change really is the gift that keeps on giving (this is sarcasm by the way). Since climate change gives rise to so many different problems, if scientists have a problem monitoring one effect of climate change, no worries! Because there are other effects that can be easier to study. The main effect of climate change is rising temperatures. However, when measuring the temperature of an entire area is not feasible, or when other effects of climate change, for example, animal populations or migration patterns, are too hard to directly study, that’s where sound comes in.

Climate change can alter the natural processes of an entire environment, and when sound-producing organisms are involved, this gives scientists an avenue to monitor how climate change is progressing through the use of sound. For example, climate change affects when flowers bloom and that in turn changes when insects pollinate them. Ultimately, this results in a change in when birds come to feed on these insects (Keim, 2019). By altering when the seasons change, climate change also affects when birds migrate. One study recorded songbird calls to track their arrival, which then correlates to tracking climate change. Songbirds are too hard to track physically thus using their sound proves to be a more effective method (Columbia University, 2018). Hence, by studying the frequency, location and timing of the bird calls, a lot can be known about climate change.

Gambel’s white crown sparrow, one of the songbirds whose calls were studied. Source: Pixabay

Climate change can also affect plant composition in an area due to temperature changes. Plants serve as sound absorbers, thus a thicker forest would reduce reverberation and noise whereas a more sparse forest would result in the opposite (Paine, 2018). Thus, recording and comparing the sounds of a forest in different years can also give insights to climate change.

However, using sound to study climate change should only be done when the sound is produced naturally by organisms in the environment. A method called acoustic tomography sends out low frequency sounds in the ocean to measure how long and far the sound travels for, which then provides data on the average temperature of the ocean (DOSITS, n.d.). I have come across low frequency sounds enough times throughout the course of writing this blog to know that it is bad news for marine wildlife. Fortunately, I discovered that the method was discontinued in 2006 (Dushaw, 2015).

As mentioned in my previous post, climate change is worsening noise pollution (I mostly talked about the effect underwater, but it does happen on land too). This situation doesn’t seem very ideal but a good thing that could arise from this phenomenon is that hopefully the study of sound can be more widely used to monitor the effects of climate change. Therefore, in addition to monitoring the sound produced by animals, how much noise the animals are hearing can be monitored too. Perhaps even before we see the effects of climate change, the animals can already hear it.

 

References:

Keim, B. (2019). What does climate change sound like? Retrieved from https://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2019/11/climate-change-biophony/

Paine, G. (2018). Listening to nature: How sound can help us understand environmental change. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/listening-to-nature-how-sound-can-help-us-understand-environmental-change-105794#:~:text=Sound%20is%20a%20critical%20environmental%20signifier.&text=Average%20city%20sounds%20levels%20of,for%20animals%20and%20even%20plants.

Columbia University. (2018). The sounds of climate change. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-06/cu-tso061718.php

DOSITS. (n.d.). How is sound used to measure global climate change? Retrieved from https://dosits.org/people-and-sound/research-ocean-physics/how-is-sound-used-to-measure-global-climate-change/

Dushaw, B. (2015). Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC). Retrieved from http://staff.washington.edu/dushaw/atoc.html

 

Sound and climate change (part 1)

This week’s blog post will be the first part of the relationship between climate change and sound. The topic of climate change is usually surrounded by talks of increasing global temperatures, so I would have never imagined that climate change can also indirectly worsen noise pollution. Seeing the link between climate change and sound means also seeing the link between temperature and sound, which is extremely fascinating because I thought that these 2 things were independent of each other.

Firstly, let me bring you to the frigid waters of the Arctic ocean, where due to melting ice resulting in more open water, shipping activity has increased (European Federation for Transport and Environment, n.d.). This of course increases noise pollution in the ocean but there is another way that melting ice can make oceans noisier. One source of noise in the Arctic is wind, and Arctic wind can get pretty strong which also means it’s loud (NSIDC, 2020). Ice is a barrier that shields the ocean from noise, but as ice melts, more of the ocean surface is exposed. Hence, allowing more wind sounds to travel underwater (Pinkelman, 2020). Thus, melting ice is basically a double whammy for the Arctic in terms of noise pollution.

Ships in the Arctic. Source: Pixabay

Let’s go a little further outside the Arctic Ocean to Beaufort Sea. Climate change has essentially created and perpetuated a passageway through the ocean where sound can travel much further than before. This is called the Beaufort Lens and it works by trapping sound within warmer layers of water, which doesn’t allow the sound to disperse out and die down (Nowogrodzki, 2017).

Moving on to a more widespread phenomenon: ocean acidification. This is not exactly a result of climate change but more of a byproduct. As humans contribute to climate change, we are also contributing to more acidic oceans. As ocean acidity increases due to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, lesser low frequency noise gets absorbed by the water (Brewer et al., 2009). This means sound can travel longer and further before dissipating, thus prolonging the harm caused.

Whales in the Arctic. Source: Pixabay

It seems like marine life in the Arctic are bearing the brunt of increased noise pollution due to climate change. This worrying because the Arctic is home to animals that are very vulnerable to noise pollution, for example, various whale species (Arctic Ocean Diversity, 2008). Since whales rely heavily on echolocation to find food and mates, extra noise in the ocean can interfere with their communication and may lead to reduced survivability (National Geographic Society, 2019). When climate change hits, it hits hard. It reminds me of a domino effect because climate change gives rise to so many other problems. It can be noted that sources of anthropogenic noise (cars, planes, ships) can lead to worsening climate change through fuel emissions, and then climate change further worsens noise pollution. Thus, I came to a realization that in a way this is a never-ending cycle of increasing noise that all started with humans.

 

References:

European Federation for Transport and Environment. (n.d.). Arctic Shipping. Retrieved from https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/shipping-and-environment/arctic-shipping 

NSIDC. (2020). Factors Affecting Arctic Weather and Climate. Retrieved from https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/arctic-meteorology/factors_affecting_climate_weather.html

Pinkelman, S.R. (2020). Drowned out: Is climate change making the ocean a noisier place? Retrieved from https://oceana.org/blog/drowned-out-climate-change-making-ocean-noisier-place#:~:text=The%20ocean%20was%20never%20totally,more%20noise%20associated%20with%20wind.&text=%E2%80%9CIt’s%20just%20one%20of%20the,can%20listen%20to%20climate%20change.%E2%80%9D

Nowogrodzki, A. (2017). Global Warming Is Changing How the Ocean Carries Sound. Retrieved from https://deeply.thenewhumanitarian.org/oceans/articles/2017/05/12/global-warming-is-changing-how-the-ocean-carries-sound-2

Brewer, P.G., and K. Hester. 2009. Ocean acidification and the increasing transparency of the ocean to low-frequency sound. Oceanography 22(4):86–93, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2009.99

Arctic Ocean Diversity. (2008). Marine Mammals. Retrieved from http://www.arcodiv.org/MarineMammals.html

National Geographic Society. (2019). Noise Pollution. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/noise-pollution/

 

How sound affects wildlife underwater (part 2)

Continuing off from last week’s blog post, I will be discussing policies and solutions regarding the issue of noise pollution underwater. Compared to noise pollution on land, there seem to be more available solutions and regulations to mitigate the effects of sound underwater. As to why this is the case, I am not completely sure but I would guess that it has something to do with the fact that underwater anthropogenic noise, for example, seismic surveys, can be much more deafening to wildlife than anthropogenic noise on land.

Commercial tanker ship. Source: Pixabay

There are a few options available to the shipping industry to reduce noise pollution, as outlined in this set of recommendations from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) (IMO, 2014). For ships that are currently being used, IMO recommends regular upkeep of the ship to ensure that it is as good as new. Cleaner propellers and hull ensure that the ship can glide smoothly through the water, hence reducing noise produced. For ships yet to be built, IMO advises changing the structure of the propeller and hull to decrease cavitation (the loud explosion of bubbles near the propeller) (Datawave Marine Solutions, n.d.). Barriers to contain the vibration of the ship’s engine can also be installed, in addition to reducing ship speed. However, it should be noted that these are just recommendations and are not enforced.

Regarding activities like seismic surveys, there is a less noisy substitute called marine vibroseis (Duncan et al., 2017), but there seems to be no incentive to encourage companies to adopt this method. Regulations have also been put in place to mitigate effects of sonar, but they are not strict enough (Potenza, 2016).

Seismic survey ship. Source: Unsplash

Although there is more attention surrounding the mitigation of underwater noise pollution than noise pollution on land, regulations are either not enforced or in dire need of revision. In my opinion, modifications, maintenance or alternatives may increase the operating cost of the firms but business can still proceed as usual. Perhaps more incentives need to be given to push companies to adopt more environmentally-friendly methods.

In Singapore, I couldn’t find measures that specifically aimed to reduce underwater noise pollution, which is a pity because (as I mentioned in last week’s post) our ship activity is very high. The Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act does not include noise pollution (Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, 2020), but I was able to find a notice from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore that imposed a maximum noise level on Singapore ships (Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, 2017). While the intention behind this was to benefit humans, I’m sure the benefits will spill over to marine wildlife too.

However, it is not enough. Singapore needs to recognize that pollution underwater is not only limited to water pollution. It gives me hope that other countries like Australia and Canada have dedicated resources to investigate the effects of noise pollution in their waters (Safety4Sea, 2018) and I hope that Singapore will follow suit soon! 🙂

 

References:

IMO. (2014). GUIDELINES FOR THE REDUCTION OF UNDERWATER NOISE FROM COMMERCIAL SHIPPING TO ADDRESS ADVERSE IMPACTS ON MARINE LIFE. Retrieved from https://safety4sea.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IMO-Guidance-on-reducing-underwater-noise-from-commercial-shipping-2018_06.pdf

Datawave Marine Solutions. n.d. Bubbles Are Bad: The Cause and Effects of Propeller Cavitation. Retrieved from https://dmsonline.us/bubbles-are-bad-the-cause-and-effects-of-propeller-cavitation/

Duncan, A.J., Weilgart, L.S., Leaper, R., Jasny, M., Livermore, S. (2017). A modelling comparison between received sound levels produced by a marine Vibroseis array and those from an airgun array for some typical seismic survey scenarios. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 119(1), 277-288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.04.001

Potenza, A. (2016). Navy sonar that harms whales and dolphins was improperly approved, US court finds. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2016/7/18/12213780/low-frequency-sonar-navy-whales-dolphins-marine-mammals-us-court

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2020). Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act. Retrieved from https://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/port-of-singapore/maritime-legislation-of-singapore/prevention-of-pollution-of%20the-sea-act

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. (2017). APPLICATION OF NOISE LIMIT TO SINGAPORE REGISTERED NEW SHIP BELOW 1600GT. Retrieved from https://www.mpa.gov.sg/web/portal/home/port-of-singapore/circulars-and-notices/shipping-circulars/detail/d1fc0aec-adb4-486b-81ba-673d60cf1152

Safety4Sea. (2018). Underwater noise problems come on the surface. Retrieved from https://safety4sea.com/cm-underwater-noise-problems-come-on-the-surface/

 

 

 

How sound affects wildlife underwater (part 1)

One of my favourite things to do during this pandemic is to look back on happy times I spent overseas. I scrolled through my phone and found a video of me seeing wild dolphins for the first time in Australia while on a boat tour. Every time the dolphins surfaced out of the water, everyone on the ferry would gasp, it was really amazing to see. However, as my gaze shifted back to my notes for this week’s blog post…wait a minute, am I part of the problem?

A wild dolphin that I managed to spot. Source: me

You might be wondering what problem I’m referring to so I’ll get straight to the point: it is getting too noisy underwater, and the fault lies in humans. Underwater anthropogenic noise stems from ships, boats and sonar testing just to name a few. Low frequency sounds emitted by ships can cause stress related issues in whales (Rosalind et al, 2012) and fish (Bates, 2012), disrupt dolphin communication (McCarthy, 2018) and can even disorientate coral larvae (McCarthy, 2010 ). Sonar is probably the most harmful as it has caused multiple beaked whale strandings (NOAA, 2020). The whales dive too abruptly to avoid the sound, causing effects similar to decompression sickness in humans (Jones, 2019).

I tried to view this issue in a more local context. Being a small nation with little natural resources, Singapore relies heavily on imports. Thus, the shipping industry here is huge! Singapore boasts one of the top ports in the world, second only to China (World Shipping Council, 2018). In 2019 alone, about 37 million shipping containers passed through our port, and this number seems to be rising each year (Kurohi,2020). With such high-intensity shipping activity, I can only imagine how unbearable the sound must be underwater.

Singapore’s very busy shipping port. Source: Unsplash

Going back to me reminiscing my overseas trips, I started to reflect on how wildlife tourism may also add on to this problem. As mentioned in the beginning, I went on a ferry tour to see wild dolphins in Australia, and in other areas like Alaska, boats bring tourists to see whales. To capitalize on the rich biodiversity in aquatic areas, companies introduce a high concentration of boats in areas that used to have minimal human presence. These boats circle the area from morning to evening, trying to bring tourists close to the animals. These smaller vessels don’t produce as much noise as bigger commercial ships, but with such high frequency of trips in the same area, their effects may get amplified.

Tourists on whale watching boats. Source: Pixabay

There’s really a lot to talk about regarding underwater noise pollution so next week I will continue to discuss policies and solutions regarding this issue. For now, I’m going to end with a quote from Emmy award-winning documentary Sonic Sea:

“Listening (to the underwater noise pollution) on the headphones gives you a headache, within 10 minutes you have to take the headphones off” – Research assistant Molly Patterson.

So just imagine how it must feel like to listen to that noise for your whole life.

 

References:

Rolland Rosalind M., Parks Susan E., Hunt Kathleen E., Castellote Manuel, Corkeron Peter J., Nowacek Douglas P., Wasser Samuel K. and Kraus Scott D. 2012 Evidence that ship noise increases stress in right whales. Proc. R. Soc. B.2792363–2368 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.2429

Bates, M. (2012). Noise pollution also threatens fish. Retrieved from https://www.aaas.org/noise-pollution-also-threatens-fish#:~:text=Sounds%20have%20the%20potential%20to,only%20beginning%20to%20learn%20about.

McCarthy, J. (2018). Growing Ocean Pollution Is Impacting Dolphin Communication. Retrieved from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/dolphins-noise-pollution-speaking/

McCarthy, M. (2010). Young coral ‘threatened by noise pollution’. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/young-coral-threatened-by-noise-pollution-1981122.html

NOAA. (2020). Beaked Whale Strandings in the Mariana Archipelago May Be Associated with Sonar. Retrieved from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/beaked-whale-strandings-mariana-archipelago-may-be-associated-sonar

Jones, N. (2019). Ocean uproar: saving marine life from a barrage of noise. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01098-6

World Shipping Council. (2018). TOP 50 WORLD CONTAINER PORTS. Retrieved from http://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/global-trade/top-50-world-container-ports

Kurohi, R. (2020). Singapore’s shipping throughput hits record high. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/business/singapores-shipping-throughput-hits-record-high

 

 

 

 

How sound affects wildlife on land

 

Source: Pixabay. Edited by me

I will be kicking off my blog by discussing the impact of sound on land-dwelling wildlife. There’s no dispute about how noisy it is on land, especially in urban cities like Singapore (I am currently trying very hard to concentrate in the presence of a loud construction site near my house). We might get used to these sounds after a while but we can’t forget that we share our land with many animals. Whatever we hear, they hear too.

Frogs and birds have to compete with noise pollution when finding mates. To avoid getting drowned out by traffic noise, males have to produce higher pitched mating calls. This, however, can decrease their chance of successfully finding mates as calls of that pitch don’t appeal to females (Australian Academy of Science, 2016). Studies have also shown that stress from noise pollution may cause earlier deaths in birds (Dorado-Correa, A.M., Zollinger, S., Heidinger, B., 2018), and when birds choose to move elsewhere due to noise pollution, their previous habitat will suffer from their absence (Sohn, 2012). In Singapore, the Bukit Timah Expressway cuts through the Central Catchment nature reserve and Bukit Timah nature reserve, hence bringing traffic noise right to the doorstep of animals. I also read that migratory birds are deterred by noisy areas (Queen’s University Belfast, 2019), which made me think about whether noise pollution could potentially threaten the arrival of migratory birds in Singapore.

A male great tit, one of the birds that change its call due to noise pollution. (Source: Pixabay. Edited by me)

I realised that a lot of the anthropogenic noise in Singapore is driven by consumerism, entertainment and the strive for economic growth. The food that is delivered by motorcycles, the things we order online that get sent to us by planes and trucks; and not to forget, the Airshow, national day flypast and Formula 1 events that happen in Singapore. All these produce so much extra noise. They hand out earplugs to F1 spectators but what about the animals in the proximity?

As far as what has been done in Singapore to reduce noise pollution for wildlife, I could only find these two examples: Construction work in Mandai was only done in the day time and noise levels were regulated (Tan, 2016). Also, the National Parks Board advises citizens to be mindful of their volume in parks (National Parks, 2020). Currently, the issue of noise pollution affecting wildlife doesn’t seem to be of that much importance to Singapore, which is a country that often prioritises economic growth over other issues. Sadly, as our economy grows, so does our noise level.

I remembered an article by Mothership about a man who had enough of a loud Koel bird (How, 2020). It made me laugh, but honestly, instead of complaining about noisy animals, we need to start recognising that we are the true noise pollution here.

 

References:

Australian Academy of Science. (2016). Noise pollution and the environment. Retrieved from https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/noise-pollution-and-environment

 

Dorado-Correa, A.M., Zollinger, S., Heidinger, B. et al. Timing matters: traffic noise accelerates telomere loss rate differently across developmental stages. Front Zool 15, 29 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-018-0275-8

 

Sohn, E. (2012). Noise Pollution Affects Plants, Too. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/46802237/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/noise-pollution-affects-plants-too/#.X1oj7JMzaqC

 

Queen’s University Belfast. (2019). Researchers Show Noise Pollution Is Threatening the Survival of a Number of Species. Retrieved from https://www.newswise.com/articles/researchers-show-noise-pollution-is-threatening-the-survival-of-a-number-of-species#:~:text=The%20researchers%20found%20that%20noise%20pollution%20also%20has%20a%20huge,homes%20to%20raise%20their%20young.

 

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Welcome!

Hi everyone! I’m Christabel, a year 1 Environmental Studies student at NUS, and I would like to welcome you to my blog!

I’ll start by introducing myself: I like watching anime, listening to music and I spend far more time on TikTok than I’d like to admit. Don’t be fooled by the amount of time I spend cooped up in my bedroom, because I actually feel most at home in nature!

Me in Halong Bay last year when I visited Vietnam! (Source: Me)

Maybe it’s because my father brought me to a different nature reserve every week when I was young, coupled with sitting through hours of David Attenborough documentaries to pass time (did I understand what he was saying at that age? Not really. But did I enjoy myself? Somehow yes.). I became intrigued by nature and wildlife, in particular, reptiles. If you ever see me squatting on the side of the pavement, I’m not having a bad stomach ache, I’m probably just staring at a lizard I spotted.

A very sunburnt Christabel experiencing peak happiness holding a snake in Australia earlier this year. (Source: Me)

As much as I would love to blog about reptiles, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone and explore a topic that is a little new to me in order to document my learning. To me, sound is everywhere and so omnipresent that I never thought of it as something intrusive. Other than hurting my eardrums, or being distracting and irritating, I never realised how sound can harm an organism to the point of death (NOAA, 2020), or change the behaviour of an entire species (Australian Academy of Science, 2016). As a result, when I came across this video by SciShow on Youtube, my interest was piqued. I was fascinated by how sound and the environment are linked in so many ways. Thus, I began my research and dug deeper and deeper. I wanted to know the science behind it, the extent of harm, how many types of species are affected, are they just affected on a physical level or on a genetic level too? Throughout the course of researching, I also felt myself asking many questions about whether enough people are aware of this, what measures have been put in place to mitigate the negative impacts, and of course, what can I personally do to contribute.

I really can’t wait to share my thoughts and discoveries with everyone so let’s make some noise (but shh… not too much) because this is officially the start of my blog!

 

References:

NOAA. (2020).Beaked Whale Strandings in the Mariana Archipelago May Be Associated with Sonar

https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/beaked-whale-strandings-mariana-archipelago-may-be-associated-sonar

Australian Academy of Science. (2016). Noise pollution and the environment

https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/noise-pollution-and-environment