May 24 2011

Acoustic Stressors

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In the installation of shoreline and offshore energy devices, it is important to gauge the acoustic impacts on marine life. Anthropogenic degradation of underwater habitats through sound disturbance is already a problem because of shipping, fishing, and surverying. However, the implications  of acoustic contamination for ocean-based organisms are greater than they are for land-based organisms. Since light transmits poorly through the water column and sound travels four times faster in water than in air, marine animals rely more strongly on acoustics for several behaviors. Sound is used for communication, predation, and navigation.

The development of marine-based energy generating technologies has the potential to have several acoustic side effects. Extremely loud sounds, mostly coming from construction and decommissioning may prove harmful or lethal to marine animals. Even quiet sounds can damage underwater habitats if they mimic or mask other underwater sounds that these organisms may rely on. Since different species use on different frequency sounds, it is critical to complete a comprehensive acoustic impact assessment tailored to the ecology of the region of interest.

The oceans are alive with sound. Below is a video that shows some of the sounds that whales make underwater. These whales used to be able to communicate across entire oceans, but because of oceanic noise contamination, many whales are no longer as effective at communicating as they once were.


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