Listen to Forest Beats to Assess Environmental Health
SciDev.Net (June 26, 2017)

By analyzing the composition of sounds in a forest — called a soundscape — scientists can make cost-effective and reliable assessment of the forest, according to a new study conducted in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  

A soundscape’s saturation refers to the variety of pitches, or frequencies, found in the sounds. The study, published in Conservation Biology on 14 June, confirmed that land-use zones with intact forest cover had significantly higher soundscape saturation.

Autonomous recorders set up at 34 locations in the Adelbert Mountains of PNG covered sites ranging from pristine forests to small cacao farms. Led by Zuzana Burivalova, tropical forest ecologist at Princeton University, the study recorded almost 1,300 hours of sounds in July 2015. 

Burivalova and her team found that soundscape saturation peaked at dawn and dusk, likely because most birds and amphibians vocalise then. Sites with less forest cover due to human activity (e.g., farming) have less saturated soundscapes versus those with high forest cover (e.g., conservation and hunting zones).

“This study is a proof-of-concept that shows we can acquire a lot of high-quality acoustic data in tropical rainforests and that soundscape saturation is a relatively simple measurement that tells us a lot about the environment,” Burivalova tells SciDev.Net.

Read the full article here.