A number of studies document impacts to living marine resources, including behavioral changes and physical effects due to exposure to anthropogenic noise and pressure waves in the marine environment. Anthropogenic sources of noise include large commercial shipping traffic such as container ships, freighters, barges and tankers, recreational and commercial boats, military low frequency testing, research activities and aerial overflights.
Marine mammals have been observed to deviate from their migration paths to avoid noise, or interrupt their communications in response to elevated noise levels. Certain anthropogenic noise is thought to mask sounds used for mating, feeding and avoiding predators. Responses vary depending on the acoustic frequency, decibel level, proximity to the source and other species-specific sensitivity factors. Concern about the cumulative impacts of noise from a variety of sources has grown as the ocean has become noisier in past half-century. However, long-term cumulative impacts are uncertain and range from minimal impacts in some situations to behavioral alterations to possible physiological or physical damage to hearing, to stranding events.
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MARS: Passive Acoustic Monitoring
John Ryan, George Matsumoto
- What are the ambient noise levels in the sanctuary arising from both anthropogenic and natural sources and how are whales in the sanctuary affected by increased anthropogenic noise?
- What are the spatial and temporal patterns of noise produced by vessels within the sanctuary?
- What are the relative inputs of sound from various sources to the sanctuary’s total “ocean noise budgets,” and how do they vary at temporal and spatial scales?
Education and Outreach Material
Discovery of Sound in the Sea offers many resources related to the issue of noise in the ocean.
Clark, Christopher W., et al. "Acoustic masking in marine ecosystems: intuitions, analysis, and implication." Marine Ecology Progress Series 395 (2009): 201-222.
Ellison, W. T., et al. "A New Context‐Based Approach to Assess Marine Mammal Behavioral Responses to Anthropogenic Sounds." Conservation Biology 26.1 (2012): 21-28.
Hildebrand, John A. "Anthropogenic and natural sources of ambient noise in the ocean." Marine Ecology Progress Series 395.5 (2009).
McDonald, Mark A., John A. Hildebrand, and Sean M. Wiggins. "Increases in deep ocean ambient noise in the Northeast Pacific west of San Nicolas Island, California." The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 120.2 (2006): 711-718.
McKenna, Megan F., et al. "Underwater radiated noise from modern commercial ships." The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 131.1 (2012): 92-103.
Weilgart, Lindy S. "The impacts of anthropogenic ocean noise on cetaceans and implications for management." Canadian Journal of Zoology 85.11 (2007): 1091-1116.