Noise pollution is pervasive in U.S. protected areas

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Science  05 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6337, pp. 531-533
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4783

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Shhh, you're disturbing the ecosystem

Species in nature reserves are experiencing increased pressure from human encroachment in many forms. One type of pressure that is rarely discussed but perennial is human-produced noise. Buxton et al. looked at the degree to which such noise has affected protected areas across the United States. Human-produced noise doubled background noise levels in a majority of protected areas and substantially affected critical habitat areas for endangered species.

Science, this issue p. 531


Anthropogenic noise threatens ecological systems, including the cultural and biodiversity resources in protected areas. Using continental-scale sound models, we found that anthropogenic noise doubled background sound levels in 63% of U.S. protected area units and caused a 10-fold or greater increase in 21%, surpassing levels known to interfere with human visitor experience and disrupt wildlife behavior, fitness, and community composition. Elevated noise was also found in critical habitats of endangered species, with 14% experiencing a 10-fold increase in sound levels. However, protected areas with more stringent regulations had less anthropogenic noise. Our analysis indicates that noise pollution in protected areas is closely linked with transportation, development, and extractive land use, providing insight into where mitigation efforts can be most effective.

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