During summer 2012 Shell performed exploratory drilling at Sivulliq, a lease holding located in the autumn migration corridor of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), northwest of Camden Bay in the Beaufort Sea. The drilling operation involved a number of vessels performing various activities, such as towing the drill rig, anchor handling, and drilling. Acoustic data were collected with six arrays of directional recorders (DASARs) deployed on the seafloor over ~7 weeks in Aug–Oct. Whale calls produced within 2 km of each DASAR were identified and localized using triangulation. A “tone index” was defined to quantify the presence and amplitude of tonal sounds from industrial machinery. The presence of airgun pulses originating from distant seismic operations was also quantified. For each 10-min period at each of the 40 recorders, the number of whale calls localized was matched with the “dose” of industrial sound received, and the relationship between calling rates and industrial sound was modeled using negative binomial regression. The analysis showed that with increasing tone levels, bowhead whale calling rates initially increased, peaked, and then decreased. This dual behavioral response is similar to that described for bowhead whales and airgun pulses in earlier work. Increasing call repetition rates can be a viable strategy for combating decreased detectability of signals arising from moderate increases in background noise. Meanwhile, as noise increases, the benefits of calling may decrease because information transfer becomes increasingly error-prone, and at some point calling may no longer be worth the effort.
Soundscapes and Acoustics
Ship noise pollution has raised considerable concerns among regulatory agencies and cetacean researchers worldwide. There is an urgent need to quantify ship noise in coastal areas and assess its potential biological impacts. In this study, underwater broadband noise from commercial ships in a critical habitat of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins was recorded and analyzed. Data analysis indicated that the ship noise caused by the investigated commercial ships with an average length of 134 ± 81 m, traveling at 18.8 ± 2.5 km/h [mean ± standard deviation (SD), n = 21] comprises mid-to-high components with frequencies approaching and exceeding 100 kHz, and the ship noise could be sensed auditorily by Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins within most of their sensitive frequency range. The contributions of ship noise to ambient noise were highest in two third-octave bands with center frequencies of 8 and 50 kHz, which are within the sensitive hearing range of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and overlap the frequency of sounds that are biologically significant to the dolphins. It is estimated that ship noise in these third-octave bands can be auditorily sensed by and potentially affect the dolphins within 2290 ± 1172 m and 848 ± 358 m (mean ± SD, n = 21), respectively.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located in Massachusetts Bay off the densely populated northeast coast of the United States; subsequently, the marine inhabitants of the area are exposed to elevated levels of anthropogenic underwater sound, particularly due to commercial shipping. The current study investigated the alteration of estimated effective communication spaces at three spawning locations for populations of the commercially and ecologically important fishes, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus). Both the ambient sound pressure levels and the estimated effective vocalization radii, estimated through spherical spreading models, fluctuated dramatically during the three-month recording periods. Increases in sound pressure level appeared to be largely driven by large vessel activity, and accordingly exhibited a significant positive correlation with the number of Automatic Identification System tracked vessels at the two of the three sites. The near constant high levels of low frequency sound and consequential reduction in the communication space observed at these recording sites during times of high vocalization activity raises significant concerns that communication between conspecifics may be compromised during critical biological periods. This study takes the first steps in evaluating these animals’ communication spaces and alteration of these spaces due to anthropogenic underwater sound.
The soundscapes of four bays along the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island were monitored between January 2011 and March 2013. Equivalent, unweighted sound pressure levels within standard 1/3rd-octave bands (dB re: 1 μPa) were calculated for each recording. Sound levels increased at night and were lowest during the daytime when spinner dolphins use the bays to rest. A tsunami provided an opportunity to monitor the soundscape with little anthropogenic component. We detected a decrease in sound levels and variability in one of the busiest bays. During the daytime in the 3.15 kHz 1/3rd octave band, we detected 92 loud outliers from vessels, aquaculture, and military mid-frequency active sonar. During one military mid-frequency active sonar event sound levels reached 45.8 dB above median ambient noise levels. The differences found in the bays illustrate the importance of understanding soundscapes to effectively manage noise pollution in marine ecosystems.
There is an increasing concern that anthropogenic noise could have a significant impact on the marine environment, but there is still insufficient data for most invertebrates. What do they perceive? We investigated this question in oysters Magallana gigas (Crassostrea gigas) using pure tone exposures, accelerometer fixed on the oyster shell and hydrophone in the water column. Groups of 16 oysters were exposed to quantifiable waterborne sinusoidal sounds in the range of 10 Hz to 20 kHz at various acoustic energies. The experiment was conducted in running seawater using an experimental flume equipped with suspended loudspeakers. The sensitivity of the oysters was measured by recording their valve movements by high-frequency noninvasive valvometry. The tests were 3 min tone exposures including a 70 sec fade-in period. Three endpoints were analysed: the ratio of responding individuals in the group, the resulting changes of valve opening amplitude and the response latency. At high enough acoustic energy, oysters transiently closed their valves in response to frequencies in the range of 10 to <1000 Hz, with maximum sensitivity from 10 to 200 Hz. The minimum acoustic energy required to elicit a response was 0.02 m∙s-2 at 122 dBrms re 1 μPa for frequencies ranging from 10 to 80 Hz. As a partial valve closure cannot be differentiated from a nociceptive response, it is very likely that oysters detect sounds at lower acoustic energy. The mechanism involved in sound detection and the ecological consequences are discussed.
As the Arctic warms and sea ice decreases, increased shipping will lead to higher ambient noise levels in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic marine mammals are vulnerable to increased noise because they use sound to survive and likely evolved in a relatively quiet soundscape. We model vessel noise propagation in the proposed western Canadian Arctic shipping corridor in order to examine impacts on marine mammals and marine protected areas (MPAs). Our model predicts that loud vessels are audible underwater when > 100 km away, could affect marine mammal behaviour when within 2 km for icebreakers vessels, and as far as 52 km for tankers. This vessel noise could have substantial impacts on marine mammals during migration and in MPAs. We suggest that locating the corridor farther north, use of marine mammal observers on vessels, and the reduction of vessel speed would help to reduce this impact.
Accurately estimating contacts between animals can be critical in ecological studies such as examining social structure, predator–prey interactions or transmission of information and disease. While biotelemetry has been used successfully for such studies in terrestrial systems, it is still under development in the aquatic environment. Acoustic telemetry represents an attractive tool to investigate spatio-temporal behaviour of marine fish and has recently been suggested for monitoring underwater animal interactions. To evaluate the effectiveness of acoustic telemetry in recording interindividual contacts, we compared co-occurrence matrices deduced from three types of acoustic receivers varying in detection range in a benthic shark species. Our results demonstrate that (i) associations produced by acoustic receivers with a large detection range (i.e. Vemco VR2W) were significantly different from those produced by receivers with smaller ranges (i.e. Sonotronics miniSUR receivers and proximity loggers) and (ii) the position of individuals within their network, or centrality, also differed. These findings suggest that acoustic receivers with a large detection range may not be the best option to represent true social networks in the case of a benthic marine animal. While acoustic receivers are increasingly used by marine ecologists, we recommend users first evaluate the influence of detection range to depict accurate individual interactions before using these receivers for social or predator–prey studies. We also advocate for combining multiple receiver types depending on the ecological question being asked and the development of multi-sensor tags or testing of new automated proximity loggers, such as the Encounternet system, to improve the precision and accuracy of social and predator–prey interaction studies.
Human-made noise is contributing increasingly to ocean soundscapes. Its physical, physiological and behavioural effects on marine organisms are potentially widespread, but our understanding remains largely limited to intraspecific impacts. Here, we examine how motorboats affect an interspecific cleaning mutualism critical for coral reef fish health, abundance and diversity. We conducted in situ observations of cleaning interactions between bluestreak cleaner wrasses (Labroides dimidiatus) and their fish clients before, during and after repeated, standardised approaches with motorboats. Cleaners inspected clients for longer and were significantly less cooperative during exposure to boat noise, and while motorboat disturbance appeared to have little effect on client behaviour, as evidenced by consistency of visit rates, clientele composition, and use of cleaning incitation signals, clients did not retaliate as expected (i.e., by chasing) in response to increased cheating by cleaners. Our results are consistent with the idea of cognitive impairments due to distraction by both parties. Alternatively, cleaners might be taking advantage of distracted clients to reduce their service quality. To more fully understand the importance of these findings for conservation and management, further studies should elucidate whether the efficacy of ectoparasite removal by cleaners is affected and explore the potential for habituation to boat noise in busy areas.
Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) have stranded in association with mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS) use, and though the causative mechanism linking these events remains unclear, it is believed to be behaviourally mediated. To determine whether MFAS use was associated with behavioural changes in this species, satellite tags were used to record the diving and movements of 16 Cuvier's beaked whales for up to 88 days in a region of frequent MFAS training off the coast of Southern California. Tag data were combined with summarized records of concurrent bouts of high-power, surface-ship and mid-power, helicopter-deployed MFAS use, along with other potential covariates, in generalized additive mixed-effects models. Deep dives, shallow dives and surface intervals tended to become longer during MFAS use, with some variation associated with the total amount of overlapping MFAS during the behaviour. These changes in dives and surface intervals contributed to a longer interval between deep dives, a proxy for foraging disruption in this species. Most responses intensified with proximity and were more pronounced during mid-power than high-power MFAS use at comparable distances within approximately 50 km, despite the significantly lower source level of mid-power MFAS. However, distance-mediated responses to high-power MFAS, and increased deep dive intervals during mid-power MFAS, were evident up to approximately 100 km away.
The management of underwater noise within the European Union's waters is a significant component (Descriptor 11) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The indicator related to continuous noise, is the noise levels in two one-third octave bands centered at 63 Hz and 125 Hz. This paper presents an analysis of underwater noise in the Celtic Sea, a heavy shipping area which also hosts the seasonal Ushant thermal front. In addition to the MSFD recommended frequency bands, the analysis was extended to lower and upper frequency bands. Temporal and spatial variations as well as the influence of the properties of the water column on the noise levels were assessed. The noise levels in the area had a high dynamic range and generally exceeded 100 dB re 1 μPa. Finally, the results highlighted that oceanic mooring must be designed to minimize the pseudo-noise and consider the water column physical properties.