Marine seismic surveying discerns subsurface seafloor geology, indicative of, for example, petroleum deposits, by emitting high-intensity, low-frequency impulsive sounds. Impacts on fish are uncertain. Opportunistic monitoring of acoustic signatures from a seismic survey on the inner continental shelf of North Carolina, USA, revealed noise exceeding 170 dB re 1μ Pa peak on two temperate reefs federally designated as Essential Fish Habitat 0.7 and 6.5 km from the survey ship path. Videos recorded fish abundance and behavior on a nearby third reef 7.9 km from the seismic track. During seismic surveying, reef-fish abundance declined by 78% during evening hours when fish habitat use was highest on the previous three days without seismic noise. Despite absence of videos documenting fish returns after seismic surveying, the significant reduction in fish occupation of the reef represents disruption to daily pattern. This numerical response confirms that conservation concerns associated with seismic surveying are realistic.
Soundscapes and Acoustics
Atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing at an unprecedented rate due to anthropogenic activity. Consequently, ocean pCO2 is increasing and pH decreasing, affecting marine life, including fish. For many coastal marine fishes, selection of the adult habitat occurs at the end of the pelagic larval phase. Fish larvae use a range of sensory cues, including sound, for locating settlement habitat. This study tested the effect of elevated CO2 on the ability of settlement-stage temperate fish to use auditory cues from adult coastal reef habitats. Wild late larval stages of painted goby (Pomatoschistus pictus) were exposed to control pCO2 (532 μatm, pH 8.06) and high pCO2 (1503 μatm, pH 7.66) conditions, likely to occur in nearshore regions subjected to upwelling events by the end of the century, and tested in an auditory choice chamber for their preference or avoidance to nighttime reef recordings. Fish reared in control pCO2 conditions discriminated reef soundscapes and were attracted by reef recordings. This behaviour changed in fish reared in the high CO2 conditions, with settlement-stage larvae strongly avoiding reef recordings. This study provides evidence that ocean acidification might affect the auditory responses of larval stages of temperate reef fish species, with potentially significant impacts on their survival.
The study of marine soundscapes is an emerging field of research that contributes important information about biological compositions and environmental conditions. The seasonal and circadian soundscape trends of a marine protected area (MPA) in the Mediterranean Sea have been studied for one year using an autonomous acoustic recorder. Frequencies less than 1 kHz are dominated by noise generated by waves and are louder during the winter; conversely, higher frequencies (4–96 kHz) are dominated by snapping shrimp, which increase their acoustic activity at night during the summer. Fish choruses, below 2 kHz, characterize the soundscape at sunset during the summer. Because there are 13 vessel passages per hour on average, causing acoustic interference with fish choruses 46% of the time, this MPA cannot be considered to be protected from noise. On the basis of the high seasonal variability of the soundscape components, this study proposes a one-year acoustic monitoring protocol using the soundscape methodology approach and discusses the concept of MPA size.
Different marine habitats are characterised by different soundscapes. How or which differences may be representative of the habitat characteristics and/or community structure remains however to be explored. A growing project in passive acoustics is to find a way to use soundscapes to have information on the habitat and on its changes. In this study we have successfully tested the potential of two acoustic indices, i.e. the average sound pressure level and the acoustic complexity index based on the frequency spectrum. Inside and outside marine protected areas of Moorea Island (French Polynesia), sound pressure level was positively correlated with the characteristics of the substratum and acoustic complexity was positively correlated with fish diversity. It clearly shows soundscape can be used to evaluate the acoustic features of marine protected areas, which presented a significantly higher ambient sound pressure level and were more acoustically complex than non-protected areas. This study further emphasizes the importance of acoustics as a tool in the monitoring of marine environments and in the elaboration and management of future conservation plans.
- As part of global efforts to reduce dependence on carbon-based energy sources there has been a rapid increase in the installation of renewable energy devices. The installation and operation of these devices can result in conflicts with wildlife. In the marine environment, mammals may avoid wind farms that are under construction or operating. Such avoidance may lead to more time spent travelling or displacement from key habitats. A paucity of data on at-sea movements of marine mammals around wind farms limits our understanding of the nature of their potential impacts.
- Here, we present the results of a telemetry study on harbour seals Phoca vitulina in The Wash, south-east England, an area where wind farms are being constructed using impact pile driving. We investigated whether seals avoid wind farms during operation, construction in its entirety, or during piling activity. The study was carried out using historical telemetry data collected prior to any wind farm development and telemetry data collected in 2012 during the construction of one wind farm and the operation of another.
- Within an operational wind farm, there was a close-to-significant increase in seal usage compared to prior to wind farm development. However, the wind farm was at the edge of a large area of increased usage, so the presence of the wind farm was unlikely to be the cause.
- There was no significant displacement during construction as a whole. However, during piling, seal usage (abundance) was significantly reduced up to 25 km from the piling activity; within 25 km of the centre of the wind farm, there was a 19 to 83% (95% confidence intervals) decrease in usage compared to during breaks in piling, equating to a mean estimated displacement of 440 individuals. This amounts to significant displacement starting from predicted received levels of between 166 and 178 dB re 1 μPa(p-p). Displacement was limited to piling activity; within 2 h of cessation of pile driving, seals were distributed as per the non-piling scenario.
- Synthesis and applications. Our spatial and temporal quantification of avoidance of wind farms by harbour seals is critical to reduce uncertainty and increase robustness in environmental impact assessments of future developments. Specifically, the results will allow policymakers to produce industry guidance on the likelihood of displacement of seals in response to pile driving; the relationship between sound levels and avoidance rates; and the duration of any avoidance, thus allowing far more accurate environmental assessments to be carried out during the consenting process. Further, our results can be used to inform mitigation strategies in terms of both the sound levels likely to cause displacement and what temporal patterns of piling would minimize the magnitude of the energetic impacts of displacement.
Offices across NOAA have collaborated to develop an agency-wide Ocean Noise Strategy, which seeks to ensure that NOAA is more comprehensively addressing noise impacts to aquatic species and their habitat over the next 10 years.
The Roadmap is intended to serve as a high-level guide, rather than a prescriptive listing of program-level actions. The document summarizes the status of the science to support the Ocean Noise Strategy's goals, details relevant NOAA management and science capacities, and recommends cross-agency actions that could be taken to achieve more comprehensive management of noise impacts. Fundamentally, the Roadmap serves as an organizing tool to rally the multiple NOAA offices that address ocean noise impacts around a more integrated and comprehensive approach. A series of key goals and recommendations are presented that would enhance NOAA’s ability to manage both species and the places they inhabit in the context of a changing acoustic environment.
The post-larval or puerulus stage of spiny, or rock, lobsters (Palinuridae) swim many kilometres from open oceans into coastal waters where they subsequently settle. The orientation cues used by the puerulus for this migration are unclear, but are presumed to be critical to finding a place to settle. Understanding this process may help explain the biological processes of dispersal and settlement, and be useful for developing realistic dispersal models. In this study, we examined the use of reef sound as an orientation cue by the puerulus stage of the southern rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii. Experiments were conducted using in situ binary choice chambers together with replayed recording of underwater reef sound. The experiment was conducted in a sandy lagoon under varying wind conditions. A significant proportion of puerulus (69%) swam towards the reef sound in calm wind conditions. However, in windy conditions (>25 m s-1) the orientation behaviour appeared to be less consistent with the inclusion of these results, reducing the overall proportion of pueruli that swam towards the reef sound (59.3%). These results resolve previous speculation that underwater reef sound is used as an orientation cue in the shoreward migration of the puerulus of spiny lobsters, and suggest that sea surface winds may moderate the ability of migrating pueruli to use this cue to locate coastal reef habitat to settle. Underwater sound may increase the chance of successful settlement and survival of this valuable species.
The Laje de Santos Marine State Park (LSMSP) and Xixová-Japuí State Park (XJSP) are two protected areas (PA), close to the Santos Bay in the south Brazilian coast. The region encompasses both important biodiversity and anthropogenic activities. This study aims to serve as a first reference survey of the underwater soundscape of these PAs. Additionally it evaluates the presence of the anthropogenic and biological sound in these areas. One month of continuous recorded underwater sound, at selected locations in XJSP and LSMSP, is used in this study. The data were characterized by its spectral content and by the temporal evolution of Sound Pressure Levels (SPL). Both locations showed sound events with daily periodicities, mainly related with boats and fish chorus.
Most marine habitats have unique soundscapes and, among other potential ecological consequences, the larvae of many fish and invertebrates use habitat-specific sounds to locate appropriate settlement habitat. Anthropogenic stressors have degraded coastal ecosystems worldwide, but the effects of this degradation on the sounds emanating from deteriorated habitats are largely undocumented, as is the effectiveness of habitat restoration in reestablishing natural soundscapes. In this study, we investigated how ambient sound emanating from three near-shore, tropical habitats (subtidal mangrove prop-root habitat, seagrass, and sponge-dominated hard-bottom) in the Florida Keys, Florida (USA) varied with time-of-day and lunar phase. We also examined whether the destruction of sponge communities in hard-bottom habitats struck by cyanobacteria blooms alters the soundscape of that habitat, and if restoration of sponge communities can reestablish natural underwater soundscapes. Soundscapes of each habitat were examined using several acoustic metrics, including spectral analysis and counts of fish calls and snapping shrimp snaps. Mangrove, healthy hard-bottom, and restored hard-bottom habitats had higher soundscape spectra levels than seagrass and degraded hard-bottom whether at noon or dusk during new or full moons. Low-frequency sounds, most likely fish calls in the ~ 300 Hz frequency range, were most prevalent in mangroves during dusk full moons. There were also higher numbers of snapping shrimp snaps in mangrove, healthy hard-bottom, and restored hard-bottom habitats than in degraded hard-bottom and seagrass beds, especially during the prominent dusk snapping shrimp chorus. Our results demonstrate that near-shore tropical habitats have unique soundscapes that are diminished by habitat degradation, but can be reestablished by habitat restoration, at least in the case of sponge-dominated hard-bottom.
Whale watching has become increasingly popular as an ecotourism activity around the globe and is beneficial for environmental education and local economies. Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) comprise an endangered population that is frequently observed by a large whale watching fleet in the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia. One of the factors identified as a risk to recovery for the population is the effect of vessels and associated noise. An examination of the effects of vessels and associated noise on whale behavior utilized novel equipment to address limitations of previous studies. Digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs) measured the noise levels the tagged whales received while laser positioning systems allowed collection of geo-referenced data for tagged whales and all vessels within 1000 m of the tagged whale. The objective of the current study was to compare vessel data and DTAG recordings to relate vessel traffic to the ambient noise received by tagged whales. Two analyses were conducted, one including all recording intervals, and one that excluded intervals when only the research vessel was present. For all data, significant predictors of noise levels were length (inverse relationship), number of propellers, and vessel speed, but only 15% of the variation in noise was explained by this model. When research-vessel-only intervals were excluded, vessel speed was the only significant predictor of noise levels, and explained 42% of the variation. Simple linear regressions (ignoring covariates) found that average vessel speed and number of propellers were the only significant correlates with noise levels. We conclude that vessel speed is the most important predictor of noise levels received by whales in this study. Thus, measures that reduce vessel speed in the vicinity of killer whales would reduce noise exposure in this population.