Jan 23, 2018
We called this post "Bluebird in the Coal Mine" to reflect the critical importance of a new landmark study by Kleist and co-workers on the biochemical, behavioral and physical impacts of environmental noise on bluebirds. If you're familiar with the expression, "canary in the coal mine," you'll know it refers to coal miners who took canaries into the mine to detect carbon monoxide and other toxic gases before they hurt humans. Similarly, the bluebirds are our warning of the destructive effects of environmental noise on nature and humanity.
A growing body of work is sounding the alarm about destructive effects of man-made noise on wildlife and our ecosystems. As our world has gotten noisier, researchers have observed changes in the ways in which animals communicate as well as decreases in animal populations and biodiversity. For example, male frogs compensate by calling at a higher pitch, much to the dismay of females who prefer lower voices. Birds adapt with higher pitched calls, more frequent calling, and calling at night. A new landmark study by Kleist and co-workers published in the prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, takes this body of work a step further. In a bluebird population exposed to constant low frequency noise, a clear connection is made between the noise, its biochemical effects, and its adverse effects fitness, health, and survival. The study has important implications for the survival of wildlife, humanity, and the planet.
Below is the start of the article posted by the Florida Museum of Natural History -- Noise Pollution Causes Chronic Stress in Birds, with Health Consequences for Young. We encourage you to read the entire article and see the pictures.
Birds exposed to the persistent noise of natural gas compressors show symptoms remarkably similar to those in humans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, new research shows. In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that adults and nestlings of three species showed multiple signs of chronic stress caused by noise pollution, including skewed stress hormone levels, possibly due to increased anxiety, distraction and hypervigilance.
The study is the first to test the relationships between noise, stress hormones and fitness in animals that breed in natural areas with unrelenting, human-made noise.
Constant noise could be acting as an “acoustic blanket,” muffling the audio cues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors and their own species, said study co-author Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Unable to discern whether their environment is safe, mother birds must choose between staying on guard at the nest and finding food for their young.