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Impacts of traffic noise on anuran and bird communities

Abstract

Anurans and birds rely on sound for a number of social behaviors. Species that use roadside habitats are exposed to traffic noise that can mask important social signals and directly affect the community diversity and composition. We evaluate the impact of traffic noise on anuran and bird species richness, species occurrence, and composition in Puerto Rico, where there is a high density of highways and cars that generate high levels of noise pollution. We compared paired forest sites near (100 m, n = 20, dB > 60) and far (>300 m, n = 20, dB < 60) from highways, with similar vegetation structure, but different levels of noise. We found that the anuran community was not affected by traffic noise. In contrast, bird species richness and occurrence were significantly lower in sites near the highway, and bird species composition also varied significantly. Bird species with low-frequency songs were only detected in sites far from highways. The differences in the ecology and communication behavior between anurans and birds could explain these results. Anurans mainly call at night, when traffic activity was low. In contrast, bird singing activity occurs during the day and overlaps with the high levels of traffic noise. In addition, in natural habitats, Puerto Rican anurans occur at high densities and form noisy choruses (>80 dB), which may allow them to tolerate high levels of anthropogenic noise.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Laura May-Collado and Joseph Wunderle for their comments on the manuscript. We thank A.P. Valencia, C. Sanfiorenzo, A. Herrera-Montes, J. Figueroa, S.V. Ramirez, B. Hilje, J. Fonseca and C.A. Rodriguez for their help in the field. We thank C. Milan and the ARBIMON team for their advice with recorders and recording software analysis. We thank P. Rincon and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), USDA Forest Service, Puerto Rico for their help with the map. The research was funded by National Science Foundation (BDI 0640143), Junta de Calidad Ambiental de Puerto Rico and Ford Motor Company. Finally, we appreciate the comments and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers and the Editor that helped us improve the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Maria Isabel Herrera-Montes.

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Herrera-Montes, M.I., Aide, T.M. Impacts of traffic noise on anuran and bird communities. Urban Ecosyst 14, 415–427 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-011-0158-7

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Keywords

  • Anthropogenic noise effects
  • Anurans
  • Frog
  • Birds
  • Changes in community composition
  • Highways
  • Urban areas