Characterizing functional relationships between anthropogenic and biological sounds: A western New York state soundscape case study


Roads are a widespread feature of landscapes worldwide, and road traffic sound potentially makes nearby habitat unsuitable for acoustically communicating organisms. It is important to understand the influence of roads at the soundscape level to mitigate negative impacts of road sound on individual species as well as subsequent effects on the surrounding landscape. We seek to characterize the relationship between anthropogenic and biological sounds in western New York and assess the extent to which available traffic data explains variability in anthropogenic noise. Recordings were obtained in the spring of 2016 at 18 sites throughout western New York. We used the Welch Power Spectral Density (PSD) at low frequencies (0.5-2 kHz) to represent anthropogenic noise and PSD values at higher frequencies (2-11 kHz) to represent biological sound. Relationships were modeled using a novel two-stage hierarchical Bayesian model utilizing beta regression and basis splines. Model results and map predictions illustrate that anthropogenic noise and biological sound have an inverse relationship, and anthropogenic noise is greatest in close proximity to high traffic volume roads. The predictions have large uncertainty, resulting from the temporal coarseness of public road data used as a proxy for traffic sound. Results suggest that finer temporal resolution traffic sound data, such as crowd-sourced time-indexed traffic data from geographic positioning systems, might better account for observed temporal changes in the soundscape. The use of such data, in combination with the proposed modeling framework, could have important implications for the development of sound management policies.

In: Landscape Ecology (2020)