A new University of Colorado at Boulder study shows the strongest evidence yet that noise pollution negatively influences bird populations, findings with implications for the fate of ecological communities situated amid growing urban clamor.
The study also is the first to indicate that at least a few bird species opt for noisy areas over quiet ones, perhaps because of their vocalization pitches, a reduction in nest predators and less competition from other songbirds that prefer quiet environments.
The three-year study compared nesting birds inhabiting pinyon-juniper woodland sites surrounding natural gas extraction sites and their noise-producing compressors with birds nesting in adjacent, quieter woodland sites. While bird species richness declined at noisy sites, the bird nesting success was higher there than in the nearby quiet sites, said CU-Boulder doctoral candidate Clinton Francis, lead author on a study published online July 23 in Current Biology.
"This is the first study to show that noise pollution causes changes in species interactions within bird communities," said Francis of CU-Boulder's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Since noise pollution can be a major cause of declining bird diversity in and around urban areas, better noise control using quieter road surfaces and sound-reducing walls and berms should be considered to help preserve such communities."
Co-authors on the Current Biology study included CU-Boulder Professor Alex Cruz and Fort Lewis College faculty member Catherine Ortega, who received her doctorate from CU-Boulder under Cruz. The study was conducted in a parcel of woodland south of Durango, Colo., just over the New Mexico border.
While other studies have shown noise pollution can have negative impacts on bird species, most have been conducted near heavily used roads, said Francis. The CU-Boulder study is one of the first conducted in a controlled environment --
|Contact: Clinton Francis|
University of Colorado at Boulder