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.
Soundscapes and Acoustics
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.
Blue whale sound production has been thought to occur by Helmholtz resonance via air flowing from the lungs into the upper respiratory spaces. This implies that the frequency of blue whale vocalizations might be directly proportional to the size of their sound-producing organs. Here we present a sound production mechanism where the fundamental and overtone frequencies of blue whale B calls can be well modeled using a series of short-duration (<1 s) wavelets. We propose that the likely source of these wavelets are pneumatic pulses caused by opening and closing of respiratory valves during air recirculation between the lungs and laryngeal sac. This vocal production model is similar to those proposed for humpback whales, where valve open/closure and vocal fold oscillation is passively driven by airflow between the lungs and upper respiratory spaces, and implies call frequencies could be actively changed by the animal to center fundamental tones at different frequency bands during the call series.
The effect of various anthropogenic sources of noise (e.g. sonar, seismic surveys) on the behaviour of marine mammals is sometimes quantified as a dose–response relationship, where the probability of an animal behaviourally ‘responding’ (e.g. avoiding the source) increases with ‘dose’ (or received level of noise). To do this, however, requires a definition of a ‘significant’ response (avoidance), which can be difficult to quantify. There is also the potential that the animal ‘avoids’ not only the source of noise but also the vessel operating the source, complicating the relationship. The proximity of the source is an important variable to consider in the response, yet difficult to account for given that received level and proximity are highly correlated. This study used the behavioural response of humpback whales to noise from two different air gun arrays (20 and 140 cubic inch air gun array) to determine whether a dose–response relationship existed. To do this, a measure of avoidance of the source was developed, and the magnitude (rather than probability) of this response was tested against dose. The proximity to the source, and the vessel itself, was included within the one-analysis model. Humpback whales were more likely to avoid the air gun arrays (but not the controls) within 3 km of the source at levels over 140 re. 1 µPa2 s−1, meaning that both the proximity and the received level were important factors and the relationship between dose (received level) and response is not a simple one.
Protected areas are critical locations worldwide for biodiversity preservation and offer important opportunities for increasingly urbanized humans to experience nature. However, biodiversity preservation and visitor access are often at odds and creative solutions are needed to safeguard protected area natural resources in the face of high visitor use. Managing human impacts to natural soundscapes could serve as a powerful tool for resolving these conflicting objectives. Here, we review emerging research that demonstrates that the acoustic environment is critical to wildlife and that sounds shape the quality of nature-based experiences for humans. Human-made noise is known to affect animal behavior, distributions and reproductive success, and the organization of ecological communities. Additionally, new research suggests that interactions with nature, including natural sounds, confer benefits to human welfare termed psychological ecosystem services. In areas influenced by noise, elevated human-made noise not only limits the variety and abundance of organisms accessible to outdoor recreationists, but also impairs their capacity to perceive the wildlife that remains. Thus soundscape changes can degrade, and potentially limit the benefits derived from experiences with nature via indirect and direct mechanisms. We discuss the effects of noise on wildlife and visitors through the concept of listening area and demonstrate how the perceptual worlds of both birds and humans are reduced by noise. Finally, we discuss how management of soundscapes in protected areas may be an innovative solution to safeguarding both and recommend several key questions and research directions to stimulate new research.
Scientific evidence suggests that rising levels of anthropogenic underwater sound (“ocean noise”) produced by industrial activities are causing a range of injuries to marine animals—in particular, whales. These developments have forced states and development proponents into acknowledging ocean noise as a threat to marine economic activity. This paper delivers a Gramsci-inspired critique of the modernizations of ocean noise regulation being wrought by science, state and politics. Gramsci was acutely interested in the dynamic and social nature of scientific research, and his writings affirm science's powers and ambitions. At the same time, he was keen to observe how science participates in the process he called hegemony. Using examples drawn from Canada's West Coast, I suggest that capital is engaging ocean noise not only as a regulatory problem issuing from legal duties and legitimacy concerns, but opportunities linked to the commercialization of ocean science.
This paper reviews the use of acoustic telemetry as a tool for addressing issues in fisheries management, and serves as the lead to the special Feature Issue of Ecological Applications titled Acoustic Telemetry and Fisheries Management. Specifically, we provide an overview of the ways in which acoustic telemetry can be used to inform issues central to the ecology, conservation, and management of exploited and/or imperiled fish species. Despite great strides in this area in recent years, there are comparatively few examples where data have been applied directly to influence fisheries management and policy. We review the literature on this issue, identify the strengths and weaknesses of work done to date, and highlight knowledge gaps and difficulties in applying empirical fish telemetry studies to fisheries policy and practice. We then highlight the key areas of management and policy addressed, as well as the challenges that needed to be overcome to do this. We conclude with a set of recommendations about how researchers can, in consultation with stock assessment scientists and managers, formulate testable scientific questions to address and design future studies to generate data that can be used in a meaningful way by fisheries management and conservation practitioners. We also urge the involvement of relevant stakeholders (managers, fishers, conservation societies, etc.) early on in the process (i.e., in the co-creation of research projects), so that all priority questions and issues can be addressed effectively.