Dec. 14, 2012 — A new tool developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its partners is being used by scientists and land managers to model how noise travels through landscapes and affects species and ecosystems -- a major factor in land and wildlife management decisions such as where to locate new roads or recreational trails.
The tool, SPreAD-GIS, uses spatial data layers to predict how sound spreads from a source through the surrounding landscape and how it is affected by such factors as vegetation, terrain, weather conditions, and background sound levels. By determining how sound propagates, potential impacts to wildlife can be forecasted. Such impacts can include reducing habitat quality, altering the geographic distribution of species, disrupting animal communication, and causing stress.
In an example discussed in the paper, the sensitivities of humans and owls to motor vehicle sound levels were compared. The results of the SPreAD-GIS analysis showed that in the same location, motor vehicle noise would affect owls in an area 45 percent larger than the area affected for humans. Exposure to noise may affect an owl's livelihood as the animal relies on its acute sense of hearing to detect even the slightest movement of its prey.