Ecological interpretation and assessment of ecosystemsusing environmental acoustic data and analysis

Gage, S.H. and B. Napoletano

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2004-10-08 )

The ability to hear and to interpret sound is one of our basic senses. Sounds produced by the environment enable humans to assess the health of the ecosystems within which they live or extract resources. The arrays of sounds in a place depend on the habitat type, the mosaic of habitats in the landscape, the time of day, and the season of the year. We have hypothesized that sounds also reflect the status of the ecosystems. Many groups of animals produce sound and use acoustic signals to communicate. Patterns of acoustic signals reflect the dynamics of biological, social, and physical systems in the landscape. Changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of acoustic signal patterns reflect changes in those dynamics. The exact meaning of these signals, in terms of the processes and interactions they represent between social and bio-physical systems, is a challenging area of study.A framework for the study and understanding of patch-level acoustic signals from a landscape is presented. This framework includes a) the definition of a soundscape, b) a taxonomy of the biological and physical characteristics of a soundscape, c) an analytical approach to quantify the components of an acoustic sample taken from the environment, d) a protocol for measurement of acoustic signals in the environment, e) a cyber-infrastructure necessary to manage numerous acoustic signals sampled from different environments, and f) a web tool to present acoustic information in near-real time from different places at different times. We have developed methods to characterize acoustics in human dominated ecosystems.Our findings are in three areas: soundscape classification; measurement of diurnal patterns of acoustics, and the development of indices relating human and biophysical acoustics.

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