16 September 2008

Noise Pollution threatens Biodiversity

There's an intriguing article in Scientific American today, about the work of Bernie Krause, a bioacoustics expert and former Moog synthesizer player for George Harrison, the Doors and other '60s musicians.

At the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Krause made a recording of the natural ambient sounds of birds, animals, insects, reptiles and amphibians. Having made spectrographs of natural soundscapes in his musical career, he realized that the recording of these creatures “looked like a musical score. Each animal had its own niche, its own acoustic territory, much like instruments in an orchestra.”
How well these natural musicians played together, Krause concludes, says a good deal about the health of the environment. He argues that many animals evolved to vocalize in available niches so they can be heard by mates and others of their kind, but noise from human activity - from airplanes flying overhead to rumbling tires on a nearby road - threatens an animal’s reproductive success.

For the past four decades, Krause has continued this work and thus far recorded over 3,500 hours of soundscapes from three continents. With at least 40 percent of these natural symphonies having been so radically altered, Krause concludes that only species extinction could account for it.

Heck, it's not just the little critters who are affected by noise pollution. This member of the human species flinches at the sound of the constant traffic outside my window.

As Duncan grows and there's a greater influx of people - all seeming reluctant to ditch their cars or even to take passengers -, the intersection where my apartment sits is awash with traffic noise. It's unrelenting and I hate it.

Can't hear the birds singing anymore.

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