Soundscapes reveal disturbance impacts: biophonic response to wildfire in the Sonoran Desert Sky Islands
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While remote sensing imagery is effective for quantifying land cover changes across large areas, its utility for directly assessing the response of animals to disturbance is limited. Soundscapes approaches—the recording and analysis of sounds in a landscape—could address this shortcoming.
In 2011, a massive wildfire named “the Horseshoe 2 Burn” occurred in the Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, USA. We evaluated the impact of this wildfire on acoustic activity of animal communities.
In 2013, soundscape recordings were collected over 9 months in 12 burned and 12 non-burned sites in four ecological systems. The seasonal and diel biological acoustic activity were described using the “Bioacoustic Index”, a detailed aural analysis of sound sources, and a new tool called “Sonic Timelapse Builder” (STLB).
Seasonal biophony phenology showed a diurnal peak in June and a nocturnal peak in October in all ecological systems. On June mornings, acoustic activity was lower at burned than at non-burned sites in three of four ecological systems, due to a decreased abundance of cicadas directly impacted by the death of trees. Aural analyses revealed that 55% of recordings from non-burned sites contained insect sounds compared to 18% from burned sites. On October nights, orthopteran activity was more prevalent at some burned sites, possibly due to post-fire emergence of herbaceous.
Soundscape approaches can help address long-term conservation issues involving the responses of animal communities to wildfire. Acoustic methods can serve as a valuable complement to remote sensing for disturbance-based landscape management.
KeywordsSoundscape Disturbance Wildfire Conservation biology Remote sensing Sonic timelapse
We would like to thank our field assistant Karen Krebbs as well as Maura Thoenes Buckley from the Chiricahua National Monument for their help in the protocol development and the collection of the data. Additionally, we would like to thank Matthew Harris and Marc Manceau for their help in the field and their work in the documentation of this study. We are grateful for the helpful and constructive comments of the two anonymous reviewers.
This work was partially funded by the Wright Forestry Fund of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Purdue University Graduate School, National Science Foundation Research Coordination Networks (NSF RCN #1114945), National Science Foundation Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (NSF IIS #0705836), Purdue University’s Center for the Environment, the United States Department of Education’s Graduate Area of National Needs (GANN) Program, the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, and the Executive Vice President for Research and Engagement at Purdue University.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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