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Not just for the birds: Man-made noise has ripple effects on plants, too
Date:3/20/2012

Durham, NC A growing body of research shows that birds and other animals change their behavior in response to manmade noise, such as the din of traffic or the hum of machinery. But human clamor doesn't just affect animals. Because many animals also pollinate plants or eat or disperse their seeds, human noise can have ripple effects on plants too, finds a new study.

In cases where noise has ripple effects on long-lived plants like trees, the consequences could last for decades, even after the source of the noise goes away, says lead author Clinton Francis of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

The study appears in the March 21 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In previous studies, Francis and colleagues found that some animals increase in numbers near noisy sites, while others decline. But could animals' different responses to manmade noise have indirect effects on plants, too?

Because they can't move, many plants rely on birds and other animals to deliver pollen from one flower to the next, or to disperse their seeds.

To find out what animal responses to noise might mean for plants, the researchers conducted a series of experiments from 2007 to 2010 in the Bureau of Land Management's Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area in northwestern New Mexico.

The region is home to thousands of natural gas wells, many of which are coupled with noisy compressors for extracting the gas and transporting it through pipelines. The compressors roar and rumble day and night, every day of the year.

The advantage of working in natural gas sites is they allow scientists to study noise and its effects on wildlife without many of the confounding factors often associated with noisy areas like roadways or cities, such as pollution from artificial light and chemicals or collisions with cars.

To find out what animal responses to manmade noise might mean for plants, f
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Contact: Robin Ann Smith
rsmith@nescent.org
919-668-4544
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Source:Eurekalert  

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