How anthropogenic noise pollution affects our ecosystem


September 8, 2019


Our Planet Earth gets more crowded, more busy and therefore more noisy. Besides air pollution and over-cultivation, this results in a significant increase of anthropogenic noise. This phenomenon, also goes by the name noise pollution & puts a massive strain on animal welfare & our ecosystem. How is this not more talked about, I wonder.

Environmental stressor

Growing industries, increased traffic, heavy drilling… Just as noisy conditions influence our mood & sleep quality, human generated activities affect animals. Anthropogenic noise, also called noise pollution or ANP, is the man-made sound that we transfer into our ecosystem by simply executing our daily human chores. Most animals (if not all of them) use sound for their survival. Noise pollution affects our environment in a life-threatening way. Take birds for example. Recent studies done by The Cornell University show that they yearly adapt their tune so they their species can hear them. In fact the songs performed by forest breeding species were less complex than those composed by the birds that breed in human modified habitats.

Loss of Communication

According to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, this problem goes even further than city noise and oil digging. The Savannah sparrows, mainly living in the prairies need to adjust their song in order to survive. Due to excessive farming and continuous changes in land, they are finding difficulties to maintain their identity. More specifically, if a bird doesn’t change their pitch, the entire species is at risk. Think about it, we heavily disrupt their comfort of communication in critical situations including a crall for a partner, cry for help while escaping from the predators or most important: mating. It is their primary sense and essential for successful foraging, migration and reproduction. 

Internal bleeding

The same tendency occurs in Brazil. The mining activity that is happening on the fringes of the Atlantic Rain Forest severely disturbs the calls of black-fronted titi monkeys. In fact, 20% of their communication gets masked by the sound of heavy machinery and local truck traffic.

Although at the first glance the underwater world seems to be distanced from deforestation and heavy traffic, it bleeds just as hard. Literally! Recent investigation done by the International Whaling Commission portraits how noice pollution causes internal bleeding to the highly sensitive whales & dolphins. Uncontrolled sound waves, like military sonars uses for the sub marine, can cause irreversible vascular damage to their brain and lungs or panic. When these animals panic, they may surface too fast and suffer from decompression sickness just as scuba divers can. When nitrogen bubbles form in the blood, the resulting embolism may kill them.

How can I help?

With our evolving technology you would expect that noise pollution can be controlled or at least minimized. Planting more trees to provide shelter and noise absorbents is a splendid initiative but it’s not helpful enough. Unfortunately we, as a society, should be investing in sound barrier walls, silent vehicles and motivate governing authorities to introduce noise regulation policies. Using your ear plugs or moving to a more quiet area, won’t save the day in the long run. Taking action hopefully will.

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