Navigation Links
Not just for the birds: Man-made noise has ripple effects on plants, too

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, first the researchers did an experiment using patches of artificial plants designed to mimic a common red wildflower in the area called scarlet gilia.

Each patch consisted of five artificial plants with three "flowers" each microcentrifuge tubes wrapped in red electrical tape which were filled with a fixed amount of sugar water for nectar. To help in estimating pollen transfer within and between the patches, the researchers also dusted the flowers of one plant per patch with artificial pollen, using a different color for each patch.

Din levels at noisy patches were similar to a highway heard from 500 meters away, Francis explained. When the researchers compared the number of pollinator visits at noisy and quiet sites, they found that one bird species in particular the black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) made five times more visits to noisy sites than quiet ones.

"Black-chinned hummingbirds may prefer noisy sites because another bird species that preys on their nestlings, the western scrub jay, tends to avoid those areas," Francis said.

Pollen transfer was also more common in the noisy sites. If more hummingbird visits and greater pollen transfer translate to higher seed production for the plants, the results suggest that "hummingbird-pollinated plants such as scarlet gilia may indirectly benefit from noise," Francis explained.

Another set of experiments revealed that noise may indirectly benefit some plants, but is bad news for others.

In a second series of experiments at the same study site, the researchers set out to find out what noise might mean for tree seeds and seedlings, using one of the dominant trees in the area the pion pine (Pinus edulis).

Pion pine seeds that aren't plucked from their cones fall to the ground and are eaten by birds and other animals. To find out if noise affected the number of pion pine seeds that animals ate, the researchers scattered pion pine seeds underneath 120 pion pine trees in noisy and quiet sites, using a motion-triggered camera to figure out what animals took the seeds.

After three days, a number of animals were spotted feeding on the seeds, including mice, chipmunks, squirrels, birds and rabbits. But two animals in particular differed between quiet and noisy sites mice, which preferred noisy sites, and western scrub jays, which avoided them altogether.

Pion pine seeds that are eaten by mice don't survive the passage through the animal's gut, Francis explained, so the boost in mouse populations near noisy sites could be bad news for pine seedlings in those areas.

In contrast, a single western scrub jay may take hundreds to thousands of seeds, only to hide them in the soil to eat later in the year. The seeds they fail to relocate will eventually germinate, so the preference of western scrub jays for quiet areas means that pion pines in those areas are likely to benefit.

In keeping with their seed results, the researchers counted the number of pion pine seedlings and found that they were four times as abundant in quiet sites compared with noisy ones.

It may take decades for a pion pine to grow from a seedling into a full-grown tree, Francis said. This means the consequences of noise may last longer than we thought. "Fewer seedlings in noisy areas might eventually mean fewer mature trees, but because pion pines are so slow-growing the shift could have gone undetected for years, he explained.

"Fewer pion pine trees would mean less critical habitat for the hundreds of species that depend on them for survival," he added.


Contact: Robin Ann Smith
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Related biology news :

1. Borrowing from brightly-colored birds: Physicists develop lasers inspired by nature
2. Child abuse in birds: Study documents cycle of violence in nature
3. Blue whale behavior affected by man-made noise
4. Man-made photosynthesis to revolutionize food and energy production
5. Unprecedented, man-made trends in oceans acidity
6. UCLA study shows man-made fat may limit damage to heart attack victims
7. Planted, unplanted man-made wetlands are similar at year 15, and function as effective carbon sinks
8. Man-made global warming started with ancient hunters
9. Going green on hold: Man-made activities can affect blue haze, worlds weather
10. UMass Amherst ecologists among the first to record and study deep-sea fish noises
11. Tecnalia is looking into the upcycling of end-of-life tyres for the roadway noise barrier sector
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Not just for the birds: Man-made noise has ripple effects on plants, too
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016   ... management and verification solutions, has partnered with ... software solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks ... provides products that add functional enhancements to ... provides corporations and venues with an automated ...
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... 9, 2016  Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to ... hours, for employers to make sure the right employees are actually signing in, and ... ... ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ... and commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 ... targets such as WDR5 represent an exciting class ... in precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is ... treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of the Class of 2016 ... countries. Read More About the Class of 2016 PCF ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today ... Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am ... and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 ... 2016;12(1):22-8 Published recently ... peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz ... of cancer care is placing an increasing burden ... expensive biologic therapies. With the patents on many ...
Breaking Biology Technology: