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Curr Biol. 2009 Aug 25;19(16):1415-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.06.052. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

Noise pollution changes avian communities and species interactions.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 334 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


Humans have drastically changed much of the world's acoustic background with anthropogenic sounds that are markedly different in pitch and amplitude than sounds in most natural habitats. This novel acoustic background may be detrimental for many species, particularly birds. We evaluated conservation concerns that noise limits bird distributions and reduces nesting success via a natural experiment to isolate the effects of noise from confounding stimuli and to control for the effect of noise on observer detection biases. We show that noise alone reduces nesting species richness and leads to different avian communities. Contrary to expectations, noise indirectly facilitates reproductive success of individuals nesting in noisy areas as a result of the disruption of predator-prey interactions. The higher reproductive success for birds within noisy habitats may be a previously unrecognized factor contributing to the success of urban-adapted species and the loss of birds less tolerant of noise. Additionally, our findings suggest that noise can have cascading consequences for communities through altered species interactions. Given that noise pollution is becoming ubiquitous throughout much of the world, knowledge of species-specific responses to noise and the cumulative effects of these novel acoustics may be crucial to understanding and managing human-altered landscapes.

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