An international team of researchers, including IFISC (UIB-CSIC) researcher Víctor Eguíluz, has documented the impact of human-caused noise on marine animals (from invertebrates to whales) and their ecosystems. The scientists have found evidence of its negative effect, altering the behavior, physiology, reproduction and, in extreme cases, causing the death of species of these animals. The study, published in the journal Science, proposes that human-induced noise be considered a predominant stress factor on a global scale and proposes that policies be developed to mitigate its effects.
The pounding of waves, the screeching of marine mammals as they swim, or rain falling on the ocean surface are common sounds associated with the marine environment. However, since the Industrial Revolution humans have generated noise in the oceans through fishing, shipping and infrastructure development. Climate change and other human pressures have also led to the deterioration of habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows and seagrass beds, and muted characteristic sounds that guide fish larvae and other animals to find their habitats.
The research is led by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) and is the result of an evaluation of more than 10,000 scientific papers that provide evidence of the impact of human-generated noise on marine life around the world.
The study points out that the problem of noise pollution can be quickly reversed and points to what happened in the oceans during the covid-19 human encirclement as evidence of this. During those weeks, the predominant noise was once again generated by marine animals. He therefore proposes promoting management actions to reduce noise levels in the ocean, such as encouraging the use of new technologies - reducing engine or propeller noise, improving ship hull materials, the use of electric motors - or promoting regulatory measures to reduce the noise of commercial ships underwater, something that the International Maritime Organisation has been promoting since 2014 through a series of voluntary guidelines.
The soundscape of the Anthropocene ocean. Carlos M. Duarte et al. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aba4658