For many species, noise pollution can be deadly: study

Some reef-dwelling fish are twice as likely to get gobbled up by predators in the presence of a noisy motorboat, according to a study released Friday.

See Full Article

The research, published in Nature Communications, adds to a growing body of evidence that noise pollution -- on land and in the water -- is a serious menace for wildlife.

Many mammals, birds and other animals use sound to locate food, avoid predators, navigate their environment, and even select a mate.

But all of these life-essential functions can be disrupted by noise from ships and sonar probes in the sea, motor vehicles and industry on land, or airplanes.

Sometimes the results are lethal.

The new study shows that when damselfish -- a family of several hundred species found mostly in the tropics -- become stressed by a motorboat overhead, their ability to evade predators is compromised.

The likely hunter in this case is the dusky dottyback, which likes to snack on young damselfish that have recently moved to reefs from the open sea, where they hatch.

Scientists led by Stephen Simpson of the University of Exeter conducted experiments in the lab and in the wild. Whether the noise came from a recording or a real boat, the outcome was the same.

The disoriented damselfish were six times less likely to dart away from an attack, and more than twice as likely to wind up as some other fish's meal, the study found.

"The combination of stress and poor responses to strikes by predators in why these fish become such easy prey," said Andy Radford, a co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Bristol.

Scientists observed that the sound-addled fish consumed 20 to 30 per cent more oxygen, a sure sign of distress.

Beached whales

Noise pollution in the ocean often occurs in areas densely populated with marine life.

Shallow water coral reefs, for example, cover far less than one per cent of the ocean floor, but harbour more than a quarter of it's biodiversity.

Unfortunately for much of that fauna, humans also intensively exploit coral ecosystems, which means lots of motorboats. Some 500,000 will crisscross the waters above Australia's Great Barrier Reef by 2040, according to a government report.

Aggravating the impact, sound travels five times faster in water than in air, and -- due to water's density -- over far greater distances as well.

Damselfish, a common sight in salt-water aquariums, are not the only aquatic victims of human-induced sound.

Recent research has shown that pile-driving, seismic surveys and especially heavy traffic along coastal shipping lanes used by migrating whales have affected the giant sea mammals' ability to feed and communicate.

It has also fingered naval sonar as a suspect in the death of beaked whales so disoriented by the noise that they beach themselves, though the link cannot be proven experimentally.

On land, numerous studies have shown how noise pollution perturb animals as they gather food -- or try to avoid becoming another creature's midnight snack.

Some species of bat, for example, depend not on sonar but highly-developed hearing to detect beetles or centipedes moving through dirt and dry leaves. Woodpeckers similarly cock their heads to listen for hidden bugs after pecking at a tree branch.

Commercial jets passing overhead or trucks rumbling along a nearby road may be just loud enough to mask these telltale sounds.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Potent greenhouse gas methane could be cut for 'near-zero' cost: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada's oilpatch could get a big head start on reducing emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas for a "near zero" cost, says an academic study on the price of methane reduction. "Industry, as a whole, doesn't suffer," said David Tyner, a Carleton University professor whose analysis was presented recently at a conference in Ottawa on the issue. Source
  • 11 months, 90,000 km later, Birder breaks record for most species spotted in Ont.

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Jeremy Bensette has travelled more than 90,000 kilometres across Ontario over the course of 2017 in pursuit of his passion: bird watching. Eleven months after beginning his "Big Year," the 27-year-old has broken the record for the most bird species spotted in a single year in Ontario. Source
  • Energy-efficient light bulbs increasing light pollution, new study suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of international researchers has found that, despite an increase in energy-efficient LED bulbs, surface light pollution has increased around the world. That, they say, is due to the so-called rebound effect: lighting has become cheaper and more energy efficient, so people are using more lights more often. Source
  • 'A bad feeling in the pit of my stomach': Bees vanish from Brock research project

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Miriam Richards has been studying bees for 28 years, and she's never been quite this panicked.'Living in a world without fantastical creatures, it just sounds to me so barren and depressing.'- Miriam Richards, Brock University professor of biological sciences Source
  • Cellphone companies may need to step up privacy protections, minister says

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Cellphone companies may need to do a better job protecting their customers, in light of a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation showing security vulnerabilities in Canada's two largest cellphone networks, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said. And if telecommunications companies need "encouragement" to better protect privacy, the government will provide it, he said. Source
  • World's only particle accelerator for art revs up in Paris

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The world's only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris Thursday to help experts analyze ancient and precious works. The 37-metre (88-foot) AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials. Source
  • Terry Fox 'precision oncology' program offers hope for children who are out of cancer treatment options

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Seeing children suffering with cancer when he was being treated himself broke Terry Fox's heart and inspired his Marathon of Hope. Now, those efforts have fuelled a unique initiative to give kids and young adults across the country a chance to live when there are few, if any, treatment options left. Source
  • How repealing net neutrality in U.S. could hurt Canadian pocketbooks

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Canada has policies in place to ensure the internet is equal for everyone, but if the United States goes ahead with rolling back what's called "net neutrality" in that country, it could cost Canadians — literally. Source
  • Trudeau 'very concerned' about U.S. plans to roll back net neutrality

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’ll “continue to defend” net neutrality as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission set out its plans to scrap the rules around open internet access. “I am very concerned about the attacks on net neutrality,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday. Source
  • YouTube steps up enforcement of content aimed at children

    Tech & Science CBC News
    YouTube stepped up enforcement of its guidelines for videos aimed at children, the company said Wednesday, responding to criticism that it has failed to protect children from adult content. The streaming video service, which is a unit of Alphabet Inc. Source