Ocean Noise and Soundscape Projects
Ocean noise has become a chronic issue. The Northeast's Passive Acoustic Research Group participates in a variety of collaborative projects geared towards addressing this issue and working towards solutions.
Marine mammals and many fish rely on sound for navigating, socializing, establishing dominance, attracting mates, avoiding predators, and finding food. Human-caused ocean noise interferes with their ability to complete these tasks. Depending on the sound source, duration, and location, human-caused sound has the potential to affect animals by:
- Causing temporary or permanent hearing loss.
- Causing a stress response.
- Forcing animals to move from their preferred habitat.
- Disrupting feeding, breeding/spawning, nursing, and communication behaviors.
The impacts may be immediate and severe, or they may accumulate over time. Our Passive Acoustic Research Group works with many partners to study these impacts.
NOAA's Ocean Noise Strategy
NOAA has developed an agency-wide, forward-looking Ocean Noise Strategy. The strategy articulates NOAA's vision for addressing ocean noise impacts and guides science and management actions towards that vision.
The NOAA CetSound Project
In 2010, NOAA committed to improving the tools used by the agency to evaluate the impacts of human-induced noise on cetacean species. As a result, two data- and product-driven working groups were convened: the Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group and the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group.
Biologically Important Areas Special Issue Publication
A special issue on Biologically Important Areas was published in 2015. You can download the special issue and supporting materials, view an interactive map, and download the shape files for the BIA boundaries.
Partners: NOAA Sanctuaries Office, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA Science and Technology, Duke University, Heat Light & Sound Ltd.
Primary Funders: NOAA Science & Technology, NOAA Office of Protected Resources, NOAA
NOAA's Ocean Noise Reference Stations
- NOAA's Ocean Noise Strategy
- Ocean Noise Reference Station Network project
- Listening to the Sea Story Map
Partners: NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries Science Centers, NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program, Oregon State University, Cornell University, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Park Service
Primary Funders: NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program, National Park Service
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Passive Acoustic Research
From 2006 to 2011, researchers deployed arrays of bottom-mounted Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs). These units continuously recorded low-frequency sound in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We analyzed recordings from these units for the presence of vocally-active baleen whales and fish species. We also combined MARU data with data from the U.S. Coast Guard's Automatic Identification System to calculate noise budget contributions from tracked vessels in the area. To investigate the potential effects of vessel noise on the acoustic communication of marine mammals, we integrated ship and whale data. Together with the National Park Service we use these data to develop tools for understanding long-term changes in the sanctuary’s 'soundscape.'
This research has produced a wealth of information and publications on the marine acoustic environment. It is at the forefront of the development of NOAA's Ocean Noise Strategy, research on Atlantic cod, and a NOAA-wide effort to record long term ambient noise conditions now and into the future.
Partners: NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Cornell University, National Park Service
Primary Funders: NOAA Ocean Acoustics Program
NOAA/Navy Soundscape Monitoring in National Marine Sanctuaries
We conducted two years of successful acoustic monitoring in four national marine sanctuaries. We partnered with NOAA and Navy colleagues across the United States to coordinate a national-scale project to monitor soundscapes in seven national marine sanctuaries and one national monument.
We oversee the continuous acoustic monitoring of the East Coast region. We maintain acoustic recorders at three sites in Stellwagen Bank, three sites in Gray's Reef, and four sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. We coordinate with partners to gather additional data to compare with recorded sounds. These include visual and habitat survey data, telemetry detections from tagged fish, data collected with gliders, and vessel GPS data from satellites. While we seek to record and analyze all sound sources, each location is chosen for certain species and levels of human use.
- Within Stellwagen Bank, our three sites cover known spawning grounds of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), regions of high marine mammal use, and areas of varying degrees of vessel presence.
- The sites in Gray's Reef encompass a closed research area and sites with importance for species within the grouper-snapper complex, black sea bass (Centropristis striata), other fish species that are believed to produce sounds, and cetaceans.
- The sites in the Florida Keys target regions with varying levels of human use, deeper locations that historically were thought to be important spawning sites for species in the grouper-snapper complex, and sites with ongoing fish- and turtle-tagging efforts.
While recording sounds is relatively easy, making sense of them is more difficult. We use sound recordings within the East Coast area to characterize the holistic soundscape and further our understanding of sound-producing species’ behavior, patterns in sound production, and human-made sound inputs. By comparing other data sources we will be able to assess how the components of soundscapes relate to specific behaviors of fish, marine mammals, and humans. To date, we have begun to identify:
- Patterns in fish sounds and choruses related to spawning activity during certain times of year.
- How sound levels change as a function in time.
- How sound from human activity differs at each site.
As the project continues, we will document and decipher the ever-changing soundscapes of national marine sanctuaries. This will provide meaningful information about their residents, visitors, and acoustic properties. This information is useful to sanctuary managers, collaborators, and various public stakeholders.