More than 250 scientists, engineers, government advisers and groups concerned with environmental change are meeting in Cork, Ireland from August 15-20, 2010 to consider the impact of human-generated underwater noise upon aquatic life. The University of Maryland is co-sponsoring the conference, The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life, (http://aquaticnoise.org/), which is co-organized by University of Maryland Biology Professor Arthur Popper, a leading expert in aquatic bioacoustics. The goal of the conference is to draw together new knowledge on the importance of underwater sound to animals and to consider the effects of sounds upon them; whether those sounds occur naturally, are made by the animals themselves, or result from human activities.
Our oceans, rivers and lakes, once thought to be silent, have been revealed as being quite noisy, both because of sounds produced by underwater life and sounds produced by humans. Moreover, it is becoming increasingly apparent that ships, underwater explosions, seismic exploration, offshore construction, and sonars of various types have raised the level of background noise in the sea and other water bodies. There is concern over the effects of these human-made sounds upon marine mammals, fish and other aquatic animals. It is known that very intense sounds may cause tissue damage or impair hearing. At lower levels, human-generated sound may affect the ability of animals to orient, or navigate. It may affect the abilities of animals to find one another or hear the sounds made by others at a distance. Sound can disrupt behaviour, affect migrations, interfere with mating, interrupt foraging and feeding or simply cause discomfort.
Many of the underwater sounds detected in seas, lakes, and rivers are natural. Falling rain, breaking waves, cracking ice, bubbles, spray, and turbulence generate a continuous but fluctuating background of noise to which marine animals are well
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University of Maryland