Using sound to diagnose ecological health

March 2nd, 2011 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 2 (IANS) Scientists are employing sound to diagnose ecological health of a landscape and to reconnect people.

Soundscape ecology, as it is being called, focuses on what sounds can tell people about an area, the journal BioScience reports.

Bryan Pijanowski, Purdue University associate professor of forestry, who led the study, said: “Ecologists have ignored how sound that emanates from an area can help determine what’s happening to the ecosystem.”

He linked natural sound to that of a canary. Being sensitive to toxic gases, canaries can detect any dangerous build-ups in a coal mine, says the report.

Sound could be used to detect early changes in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape, according to a Purdue statement.

Pijanowski said natural sounds such as birds chirping and wind rustling through leaves not only have aesthetic significance, but also can provide valuable information about what is happening around people.

More than 35,000 recordings were used to characterise the rhythms of the natural sound and how varying degrees of human development affected those rhythms.

One of the most significant findings was that as human impact in the landscape increases, the natural rhythms of sound created by the diverse wildlife population are replaced by low and constant human-produced noise, the report says.

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