Ecoacoustics: the Ecological Investigation and Interpretation of Environmental Sound

Abstract

The sounds produced by animals have been a topic of research into animal behaviour for a very long time. If acoustic signals are undoubtedly a vehicle for exchanging information between individuals, environmental sounds embed as well a significant level of data related to the ecology of populations, communities and landscapes. The consideration of environmental sounds for ecological investigations opens up a field of research that we define with the term ecoacoustics. In this paper, we draw the contours of ecoacoustics by detailing: the main theories, concepts and methods used in ecoacoustic research, and the numerous outcomes that can be expected from the ecological approach to sound. Ecoacoustics has several theoretical and practical challenges, but we firmly believe that this new approach to investigating ecological processes will generate abundant and exciting research programs.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Amézquita, A., Flechas, S. V., Lima, A. P., Gasser, H., & Hödl, W. (2011). Acoustic interference and recognition space within a complex assemblage of dendrobatid frogs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 17058–17063.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Azzellino, A., Lanfredi, C., D’Amico, A., Pavan, G., Podestà, M., & Haun, J. (2011). Risk mapping for sensitive species to underwater anthropogenic sound emissions: model development and validation in two Mediterranean areas. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 63, 56–70.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Barber, J. R., Crooks, K. R., & Fristrup, K. M. (2009). The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 25, 180–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Barber, J. R., Burdett, C., Reed, S., Warner, K., Formichella, C., Crooks, K., Theobald, D., & Fristrup, K. (2011). Anthropogenic noise exposure in protected natural areas: estimating the scale of ecological consequences. Landscape Ecology, 26, 1281–1295.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bardeli, R., Wolff, D., Kurth, F., Koch, M., & Frommolt, K.-H. (2010). Detecting bird sounds in a complex acoustic environment and application to bioacoustic monitoring. Pattern Recognition Letters, 31, 1524–1534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boncoraglio, G., & Saino, N. (2007). Habitat structure and the evolution of bird song: a meta-analysis of the evidence for the acoustic adaptation hypothesis. Functional Ecology, 21, 134–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bormpoudakis, D., Sueur, J., & Pantis, J. (2013). Spatial heterogeneity of ambient sound at the habitat type level: ecological implications and applications. Landscape Ecology, 28, 495–506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Botero, C., Boogert, N. J., Vehrencamp, S. L., & Lovette, I. J. (2009). Climatic patterns predict the elaboration of song displays in monckingbirds. Current Biology, 19, 1–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Both, C., & Grant, T. (2012). Biological invasions and the acoustic niche: the effect of bullfrog calls on the acoustic signals of white-banded tree frogs. Biology Letters, 8, 714–716.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Briefer, E., Oiejuk, T. S., Rybak, F., & Aubin, T. (2010). Are bird song complexity and song sharing shaped by habitat structure? An information theory and statistical approach. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 262, 151–164.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Brown, A. L., & Muhar, A. (2004). An approach to he acoustic design of outdoor space. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 47, 827–842.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cato, D., McCauley, R., Rogers, T., & Noad, M. (2006). Passive acoustics for monitoring marine animals - progress and challenges. Proceedings of Acoustics, 2006, 453–460.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Chase, J. M., & Myers, J. A. (2011). Disentangling the importance of ecological niches from stochastic processes across scales. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 366, 2351–2363.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Chek, A. A., Bogart, J. P., & Loughheed, S. C. (2003). Mating signal partitioning in multi-species assemblages: a null model test using frogs. Ecology Letters, 6, 235–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ey, E., & Fischer, J. (2009). The “acoustic adaptation hypothesis” - a review of the evidence from birds, anurans and mammals. Bioacoustics, 19, 21–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Farina, A. (2014). Soundscape ecology: Principles, patterns, methods and applications. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Farina, A., & Pieretti, N. (2014). Sonic environment and vegetation structure: a methodological approach for a soundscape analysis of a Mediterranean maqui. Ecological Informatics, 21, 120–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Farina, A., Lattanzi, E., Malavasi, R., Pieretti, B., & Piccioli, L. (2010). Avian soundscapes and cognitive landscapes: theory, application and ecological perspectives. Landscape Ecology, 26, 1257–1267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Farina, A., Pieretti, N., & Piccioli, L. (2011). The soundscape methodology for long-term bird monitoring: a Mediterranean Europe case-study. Ecological Informatics, 6, 354–363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Farina, A., James, P., Bobryk, C., Pieretti, N., Lattanzi, E., & McWilliam, J. (2014). Low cost (audio) recording (LCR) for advancing soundscape ecology towards the conservation of sonic complexity and biodiversity in natural and urban landscapes. Urban Ecosystems, 17, 923–944.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Figueira, L., Tella, J. L., Camargo, U. M., & Ferraz, G. (2015). Autonomous sound monitoring shows higher use of amazon old growth than secondary forest by parrots. Biological Conservation, 184, 27–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fletcher, N. H. (2007). Animal bioacoustics. In T. D. Rossing (Ed.), Handbook of acoustics (pp. 785–804). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Francis, C. D., Ortega, C. P., & Cruz, A. (2009). Noise pollution changes avian communities and species interactions. Current Biology, 19, 1415–1419.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Furnas, B. J., & Callas, R. L. (2015). Using automated recorders and occupancy models to monitor common forest birds across a large geographic region. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 79, 325–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gage, S. H., & Axel, A. C. (2014). Visualization of temporal change in soundscape power of a Michigan lake habitat over a 4-year period. Ecological Informatics, 21, 100–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Gasc, A., Sueur, J., Jiguet, F., Devictor, V., Grandcolas, P., Burrow, C., Depraetere, M., & Pavoine, S. (2013). Assessing biodiversity with sound: do acoustic diversity indices reflect phylogenetic and functional diversities of bird communities? Ecological Indicators, 25, 279–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hampton, S. E., Strasser, C. A., Tewksbury, J. J., Gram, W. K., Budden, A. E., Batcheller, A. L., Duke, C. S., & Porter, J. H. (2013). Big data and the future of ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 11, 156–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hoffmeyer, J. (2008). The semiotic niche. Journal of Medical Economics, 9, 5–30.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Hubbell, S. P. (2011). The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Hutchinson, G. E. (1957). Concluding remarks. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology, 22, 415–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Joo, W., Gage, S. H., & Kasten, E. P. (2011). Analysis and interpretation of variability in soundscapes along an urban–rural gradient. Landscape and Urban Planning, 103, 259–276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kasten, E. P., Gage, S. H., Fox, J., & Joo, W. (2012). The remote environmental assessment laboratory’s acoustic library: an archive for studying soundscape ecology. Ecological Informatics, 12, 50–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Kight, C. R., & Swaddle, J. P. (2011). How and why environmental noise impacts animals: an integrative, mechanistic review. Ecology Letters, 14, 1052–1061.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Krause, B. (1987). Bioacoustics, habitat ambience in ecological balance. Whole Earth Review, 57, 14–18.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Krause, B. (1993). The niche hypothesis. Soundscape Newsletter, 6, 6–10.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Laiolo, P. (2010). The emerging significance of bioacoustics in animal species conservation. Biological Conservation, 7, 1635–1645.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Laiolo, P., & Tella, J. (2006). Landscape bioacoustics allow detection of the effects of habitat patchiness on population structure. Ecology, 87, 1203–1214.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Laiolo, P., Vögeli, M., Serrano, D., & Tella, J. L. (2008). Song diversity predicts the viability of fragmented bird populations. PloS One, 3, e1822.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Llusia, D., Márquez, R., Beltrán, J. F., Benítez, M., & do Amaral, J. P. (2013). Calling behaviour under climate change: geographic and seasonal variation of calling temperatures in ectotherms. Global Change Biology, 19, 2655–2674.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Lucas, T. C. D., Moorcroft, E. A., Freeman, R., Rowcliffe, J. M., & Jones, K. E. (2015). A generalised random encounter model for estimating animal density with remote sensor data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 6, 500–509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Luther, D. (2009). The influence of the acoustic community on songs of birds in a Neotropical rain forest. Behavioral Ecology, 20, 864–871.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Malavasi, R., & Farina, A. (2013). Neighbours’ talk: interspecific choruses among songbirds. Bioacoustics, 22, 33–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Marques, T. A., Thomas, L., Martin, S. W., Mellinger, D. K., Ward, J. A., Moretti, D. J., Harris, D., & Tyack, P. L. (2012). Estimating animal population density using passive acoustics. Biological Reviews, 88, 287–309.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Marten, K., & Marler, P. (1977). Sound transmission and its significance for animal vocalization. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2, 271–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Mazaris, A. D., Kallimanis, A. S., Chatzigianidis, G., Papadimitriou, K. & Pantis, J.D. (2009). Spatiotemporal analysis of an acoustic environment: interactions between landscape features and sounds. Landscape Ecology, 24, 817–831.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. McGregor, P. K. (2005). Animal communcation networks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Michener, W. K., & Jones, M. B. (2012). Ecoinformatics: supporting ecology as a data-intensive science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 27, 85–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Møller, A. P. (2010). When climate change affects where bird sing. Behavioral Ecology, 22, 212–217.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Morton, E. S. (1975). Ecological sources of selection on avian sounds. American Naturalist, 109, 17–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pekin, B., Jung, J., Villanueva-Rivera, L., Pijanowski, B., & Ahumada, J. (2012). Modeling acoustic diversity using soundscape recordings and LIDAR-derived metrics of vertical forest structure in a Neotropical rainforest. Landscape Ecology, 27, 1513–1522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Piercy, J. J. B., Codling, E. A., Hill, A. J., Smith, D. J., & Simpson, S. D. (2014). Habitat quality affects sound production and likely distance of detection on coral reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 516, 35–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Pieretti, N., & Farina, A. (2013). Application of a recently introduced index for acoustic complexity to an avian soundscape with traffic noise. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 134, 891–900.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Pijanowski, B. C., Villanueva-Rivera, L. J., Dumyahn, S. L., Farina, A., Krause, B. L., Napoletano, B. M., Gage, S. H., & Pieretti, N. (2011). Soundscape ecology: the science of sound in the landscape. Bioscience, 61, 203–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Porteous, J. D., & Mastin, J. F. (1985). Soundscape. Journal of Architectual and Planning Reseaarch, 2, 169–186.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Potamitis, I. (2014). Automatic classification of a taxon-rich community recorded in the wild. PloS One, 9, e96936.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. Rabin, L. A., McCowan, B., Hooper, S. L., & Owings, D. H. (2003). Anthropogenic noise and its effect on animal communication: an interface between comparative psychology and conservation biology. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 16, 172–192.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Risch, D., Castellote, M., Clark, C., Davis, G., Dugan, P., Hodge, L., Kumar, A., Lucke, K., Mellinger, D., Nieukirk, S., Popescu, C., Ramp, C., Read, A., Rice, A., Silva, M., Siebert, U., Stafford, K., Verdaat, H., & Van Parijs, S. (2014). Seasonal migrations of North Atlantic minke whales: novel insights from large-scale passive acoustic monitoring networks. Movement Ecology, 2, 24.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Rodriguez, A., Gasc, A., Pavoine, S., Grandcolas, P., Gaucher, P., & Sueur, J. (2014). Temporal and spatial variability of animal sound within a Neotropical forest. Ecological Informatics, 21, 133–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Ruppé, L., Clément, G., Herrel, A., Ballesta, L., Décamps, T., Kéver, L., & Parmentier, E. (2015). Environmental constraints drive the partitioning of the soundscape in fishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 12, 6092–6097.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Schafer, R. M. (1977). The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Destiny Books.

  61. Schmidt, A., & Balakrishnan, R. (2014). Ecology of acoustic signalling and the problem of masking interference in insects. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 201, 133–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Schmidt, A. K., Römer, H., & Riede, K. (2012). Spectral niche segregation and community organization in a tropical cricket assemblage. Behavioral Ecology, 24, 470–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Simpson, S. D., Meekan, M., Montgomery, J., McCauley, R., & Jeffs, A. (2005). Homeward sound. Science, 308, 221.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. Sinsch, U., Lumkemann, K., & Rosar, K. (2012). Acoustic niche partitioning in an anuran community inhabiting and Afromontane wetland (Butare, Rwanda). African Zoology, 47, 60–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Slabbekoorn, H., & Bouton, N. (2008). Soundscape orientation: a new field in need of sound investigation. Animal Behaviour, 76, e5–e8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Smith, T. B., Harrigan, R. J., Kirschel, A. N. G., Buermann, W., Saatchi, S., Blumstein, D. T., de Kort, S. R., & Slabbekoorn, H. (2013). Predicting bird song from space. Evolutionary Applications, 6, 865–874.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  67. Snaddon, J., Petrokofsky, G., Jepson, P., & Willis, K. J. (2013). Biodiversity technologies: tools as change agents. Biology Letters, 9, 20121029.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. Stowell, D., & Plumbley, M. D. (2014). Automatic large-scale classification of bird sounds is strongly improved by unsupervised feature learning. PeerJ, 2, e488.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  69. Sueur, J. (2002). Cicada acoustic communication: potential sound partitioning in a multispecies community from Mexico (Hemiptera: Cicadomorpha: Cicadidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 75, 379–394.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Sueur, J., Pavoine, S., Hamerlynck, O., & Duvail, S. (2008). Rapid acoustic survey for biodiversity appraisal. PloS One, 3, e4065.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  71. Sueur, J., Farina, A., Gasc, A., Pieretti, N., & Pavoine, S. (2014). Acoustic indices for biodiversity assessment and landscape investigation. Acta Acustica United with Acustica, 100, 772–781.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Tobias, J. A., Planqué, R., Cram, D. L., & Seddon, N. (2014). Species interactions and the structure of complex communication networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 1020–1025.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Toledo, L. F., Tipp, C., & Marquez, R. (2015). The value of audiovisual archives. Science, 3447, 484.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Towsey, M., Parsons, S., & Sueur, J. (2014a). Ecology and acoustics at a large scale. Ecological Informatics, 21, 1–3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Towsey, M., Wimmer, J., Williamson, I., & Roe, P. (2014b). The use of acoustic indices to determine avian species richness in audio-recordings of the environment. Ecological Informatics, 21, 110–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Towsey, M., Zhang, L., Cottman-Fields, M., Wimmer, J., Zhang, J., & Roe, P. (2014c). Visualization of long-duration acoustic recordings of the environment. Procedia Computer Science, 29, 703–712.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Truax, B. (1999). Handbook for acoustic ecology. Cambridge Street Publishing: CD-ROM Edition.

  78. Tucker, D., Gage, S., Williamson, I., & Fuller, S. (2014). Linking ecological condition and the soundscape in fragmented Australian forests. Landscape Ecology, 29, 745–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. van Opzeeland, I., Samaran, F., Stafford, K., Findlay, K., Gedamke, J., Harris, D., & Miller, B. S. (2013). Towards collective circum-antarctic passive acoustic monitoring: the southern ocean hydrophone network (SOHN). Polarforschung, 83, 47–61.

  80. Wimmer, J., Towsey, M., Roe, P., & Williamson, I. (2013). Sampling environmental acoustic recording to determine bird species richness. Ecological Applications, 22, 1419–1428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  81. Zimmer, W. M. X. (2011). Passive acoustic monitoring of Cetaceans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We warmly thank the colleagues who participated in organising the Paris meeting and to the development of the International Society of Ecoacoustics: Christopher Bobryk, Susan Fuller, Stuart Gage, Bernie Krause, Diego Llusia, Jamie McWilliam, David Monacchi, Gianni Pavan, Nadia Pieretti and Denise Risch. We also thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jérôme Sueur.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sueur, J., Farina, A. Ecoacoustics: the Ecological Investigation and Interpretation of Environmental Sound. Biosemiotics 8, 493–502 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-015-9248-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Ecoacoustics
  • Sound
  • Large-scale research
  • Discipline framework