Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What is a Soundscape?

Soundscapes consist of natural sounds as well as noises (unwanted sounds) present in an environment. This includes weather, animals, running water, geological shifts and other natural sounds, in addition to the anthropogenic, or man-made noise caused by machinery, motor vehicles, and airplanes.

Soundscapes are unique in that they are defined according to what is heard. For instance, when jet overflights mask the sound of chirping crickets, the crickets are removed from the soundscape until they are once again audible. This also means that the soundscape varies by location, with short movements within an environment sometimes drastically altering the perceptible sounds.

As noise pollution becomes more prevalent, masking reduces the area in which natural sounds can be heard. The results for animals include mating calls being less likely to be heard, decreased capacity to avoid predators, and a lowered sensitivity to the territory of other animals.

For visitors to natural environments, such as National Parks. the acoustic environment or soundscape is an important motivation. Noisy streets and the bustle of everyday life can quickly become overwhelming, and visits to natural locations have been shown to reduce stress levels and improve focus.

For more information on soundscapes, noise pollution and its impact on wildlife, visit nature.nps.gov/sound/noise.