It’s been well established that noise pollution can interfere with cetaceans (whales and dolphins), but its negative effects have been shown to extend to other sea creatures as well.
Around a decade ago, giant squid were found dead on the shores of Asturias, Spain. This incident followed the use of airguns by offshore vessels and with other causes ruled out, the deaths were thought to be possibly related to excessive sound exposure from this source.
That suggestion has now been confirmed by Michel André from Technical University of Catalonia in Barcelona. When Mr. André and his colleagues subjected squid, octopus and cuttlefish to low frequency sound, severe lesions were found in their auditory structures; which are also responsible for balance and spatial orientation.
Damage to these structures would likely affect creature’s ability to hunt, evade predators and even reproduce. The researchers were able to reproduce the same results dozens of times.
Mr. André said that if the relatively low intensity and short exposure to low frequency sounds used in the study could cause such severe acoustic trauma, then the impact of continuous, high intensity noise pollution in the oceans could be considerable.
With humanity stepping up its maritime activities and with so little known about noise pollution in marine environments, it’s an issue that needs urgent attention because, as Mr. Andre questions, is noise pollution capable of impacting the entire web of ocean life?
Noise pollution is one of the most underrated of environmental and health threats. Unfortunately, many people never get to enjoy an environment devoid of human-generated sound, so they really don’t know what they are missing.
The term “the silence was deafening” is based in fact. Many people used to living in suburban areas have found that once in a very quiet rural environment, they suddenly become acutely aware of their heartbeat and breathing and these can seem incredibly loud. The brain will even “add” noise in to compensate for what it thinks is lacking. This fades as the body adjusts – but then going back into a noisy environment requires another readjustment.
The constant stimulus of noise can be at the expense of cognitive functions and has been show to have a marked negative effect on the human body.
While natural areas can get noisy as well, it’s a different type of sound in my opinion – less aggressive and less distracting. While in some cases natural noises can get little overwhelming and not be much quieter than a jackhammer outside your window; I’d choose the noisy cicada over machinery any day.
Often the way we deal with noise pollution is to add more noise (music,TV etc) to drown out whatever is bothering us, which is a little like pouring gas on a fire to douse it. Contributing to noise pollution is something we should add to our list of things to be aware of when trying to lead a more environmentally friendly life.
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence. “
Desiderata – Max Ehrmann