Photo credit: jlh_lunasea licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

A Boise State University study found that birds and bats avoid noisy areas and this includes natural loud sounds as well. In this study, birds and bats were exposed to fake, loud whitewater rapids. Jesse Barber, one of the study’s researchers, concluded that “[i]n the end, what we found was that…many animals can’t adapt to the noise, and that’s whether it’s from a highway or it’s from a river.”

Sophia Charan, The Idaho Statesman, says that we can also hypothesize that these animals very likely cannot adapt to the noises created by humans, e.g. screeching cars. This latter statement is underscored by the number of articles that have noted that during the height of the COVID pandemic, with the drop in decibel levels, many people claimed to see and hear more birds. The same could be said of whales and dolphins in the water.

How do animals who have had many years to adapt to naturally loud sounds behave when exposed to these loud sounds? According to Charan they adapt by avoiding the loud natural sounds. Additionally, with human-created noises added to the loud natural sounds, these animals have to avoid even more loud sounds and more areas. Without commenting on how to control the natural loud environmental sounds that animals avoid, Jesse Barber reminds us that humans have the ability to lessen those sounds that they have created. In this way animals can continue to flourish in many more areas.

How does this article end? With Barber saying “[t]urn on the noise…it pushes all the animal populations down. We turn off the noise, and it all rebounds.” This conclusion is not really different from the one that researchers studying the adverse effects of noise on human health and well being have stated. By lessening noise from aircraft, highways, railroads, lawn equipment, etc. we will have a healthier society.