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Eavesdropping on Ecosystems

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Science  21 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6173, pp. 834-837
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6173.834

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Advances in cheap, tough automated recorders and powerful sound-analysis software are inspiring scientists to launch increasingly ambitious efforts that use sound to document and analyze ecosystems. A growing community of self-described soundscape ecologists are capturing thousands of hours of sound—from birdsong and insect choruses to rushing water, thunderclaps, and even the drone of cars and airplanes. Converting complex soundscapes into relatively simple numerical indices of biodiversity is proving difficult, and researchers are struggling to turn huge collections of digital recordings into something they can use. But if they're successful, they'll have a powerful and noninvasive way to describe ecosystems and measure how they're changing.

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