Experimental river noise alters arthropod abundance

Submitted by editor on 16 October 2021.Get the paper!

The world is a noisy place, yet as visual creatures, ecologists have largely ignored its potential role as an important niche axis. Only recently has it gained broad attention, as the negative effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife (especially vertebrates) have been demonstrably large. However, we have largely ignored invertebrates (which play important ecological roles) in noise studies. In our recent work published in Oikos titled "Experimental river noise alters arthropod abundance", we focus on arthropods while attempting to shed light on an important unanswered question: do natural sources of noise have the power to shape animal distributions and abundance?

We aimed to answer this question by broadcasting whitewater river noise from speaker arrays, 24/7, for two summers. We carried roughly 3300 kg of acoustic gear (mostly on our backs, but with some help from mules) into the mountains of Idaho, USA, to test the effects of whitewater noise exposure on arthropods across 20 sites. With repeated-measures sampling, we used six different methods to trap arthropods from different functional guilds (blue vane traps, yellow vane traps, pitfall traps, Malaise traps, ultraviolet light bucket traps, and beat-netting).

We then recruited teams of undergraduate researchers to spend months of their time identifying 151,992 individual arthropod specimens (to order). Anything beyond order was simply impractical, given how many individual specimens we had. We then analyzed these data with Bayesian generalized linear mixed-effects models which allow us to separate the effects of various noise components (amplitude and frequency), as well as other environmental variables, on arthropod abundance.

Our work experimentally demonstrates that the natural acoustic environment can have large-scale effects on abundance across many groups of arthropods, placing it as an important, yet understudied, ecological niche axis. This work helps us better understand these understudied creatures, which is especially pertinent while many groups of arthropods appear to be declining within many ecosystems worldwide.

#soundscape #bioacoustics #insects #science #ecology #research

Twitter handles: @BarberLab @ThatCoryToth @DrCDFrancis @KawaharaLab @BoiseState @Florida_Museum @BoiseState_Grad


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