facebook linkedin twitter

Under the Sea, Humans Have Changed Ocean Sounds

February 5, 2021by Christina Larson, AP Science Writer
FILE - In this Friday, July 26, 2019 file photo, a ship crosses the Gulf of Suez towards the Red Sea as holiday-makers ride a jet ski at al Sokhna beach in Suez, 127 kilometers (79 miles) east of Cairo, Egypt. Not only are humans changing the surface and temperature of the planet, but also its sounds – and those shifts are detectable even in the open ocean, according to research published Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Not only are humans changing the surface and temperature of the planet, but also its sounds – and those shifts are detectable even in the open ocean, according to research published Thursday.

Changes in the ocean soundscape affect wide swaths of marine life, from tiny snapping shrimp to huge right whales, the researchers found.

“Sounds travel very far underwater. For fish, sound is probably a better way to sense their environment than light,” said Francis Juanes, an ecologist at the University of Victoria in Canada and a co-author of the paper in the journal Science.

While light tends to scatter in water, he said, sounds travel much faster through water than through air.

Many fish and marine animals use sound to communicate with each other, to locate promising locations to breed or feed, and possibly to detect predators. For example, snapping shrimp make a sound resembling popping corn that stuns their prey. Humpback whale songs can resemble a violinist’s melodies.

But increased noise from shipping traffic, motorized fishing vessels, underwater oil and gas exploration, offshore construction and other human activity is making it harder for fish to hear each other.

The researchers sifted through thousands of data sets and research articles documenting changes in noise volume and frequency to assemble a comprehensive picture of how the ocean soundscape is changing – and how marine life is impacted.

Using underwater microphones, scientists can record fish sounds – which tend to hover around the same low frequencies as shipping traffic noise.

“For many marine species, their attempts to communicate are being masked by sounds that humans have introduced,” said Carlos Duarte, a marine ecologist at the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia and co-author of the paper.

The Red Sea is one of the world’s key shipping corridors, full of large vessels traveling to Asia, Europe and Africa. Some fish and invertebrates now avoid the noisiest areas, as the sound effectively fragments their Red Sea habitat, he said.

Meanwhile the overall number of marine animals has declined by about half since 1970. In some parts of the ocean, scientists now record “fewer animals singing and calling than in the past – those voices are gone,” said Duarte.

Climate change also influences physical processes that shape ocean sounds, such as winds, waves and melting ice, the researchers found.

“Imagine having to raise your kids in a place that’s noisy all the time. It’s no wonder many marine animals are showing elevated and detectable levels of stress due to noise,” said Joe Roman, a University of Vermont marine ecologist, who was not involved in the paper.

“When people think of threats facing the ocean, we often think of climate change, plastics and overfishing. But noise pollution is another essential thing we need to be monitoring,” said Neil Hammerschlag, a University of Miami marine ecologist, who was not involved with the paper.

“If you make something for the ocean, think about how to make it quieter,” he said.

Sound pollution may be simpler to address than other ocean threats, said the University of Victoria’s Juanes. “In theory, you can reduce or turn off sound immediately — it’s not like plastics or climate change, which are much harder to undo.”

___

Follow Christina Larson on twitter: @larsonchristina

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

A+
a-

Science

December 2, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Clinical Trial Begins for Nasal Vaccine to Stop Progression of Alzheimer's

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital will soon begin a first-ever clinical trial of a new nasal spray vaccine that... Read More

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital will soon begin a first-ever clinical trial of a new nasal spray vaccine that may hold the promise of treating Alzheimer’s disease.  “If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic... Read More

December 2, 2021
by Alexa Hornbeck
Biden Addresses Revised Plan for Ending HIV/AIDS

Yesterday was Worlds AIDS Day 2021, a day on which political leaders around the globe renewed their commitments to ending... Read More

Yesterday was Worlds AIDS Day 2021, a day on which political leaders around the globe renewed their commitments to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic nearly 40 years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially reported the first cases of AIDS.  President Joe Biden, joined by... Read More

November 12, 2021
by Reece Nations
XPRIZE and Musk Foundation Name Student Carbon Removal Competition Winners

LOS ANGELES — Winners have been announced in the $5 million carbon removal student competition award program launched by XPRIZE... Read More

LOS ANGELES — Winners have been announced in the $5 million carbon removal student competition award program launched by XPRIZE with support from the Musk Foundation, to fund early-stage concepts and remove barriers of entry for carbon emission removal innovations. Teams led by enrolled student competitors... Read More

November 2, 2021
by Anthropocene
Researchers Have Now Made Wood That You Can Fold and Mold

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine. Wood seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.... Read More

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine. Wood seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Researchers have tinkered with its chemistry and physical structure to make it transparent, squishy, strong as steel, filter water, and turned it into bioplastic and Styrofoam-like... Read More

November 2, 2021
by Dan McCue
Schumer, Pelosi, Moderates Strike Deal to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that Democrats have reached a deal on legislation to lower... Read More

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that Democrats have reached a deal on legislation to lower prescription drug prices. "It's not everything we all wanted. Many of us would have wanted to go much further, but it's a big step in helping... Read More

Pig-to-Human Transplants Come a Step Closer with New Test

Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in... Read More

Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants. Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top