Scientists recently found out that human noise can travel down to the seafloor and affect the natural habitat. It is no secret that human behaviors, like ocean acidification, climate change, and pollution, are affecting the state of the world’s oceans. Now, human noise from resource extraction and other activities is contributing.

Source: Science Magazine/YouTube

The ocean has its unique soundscape. If you’ve ever put your head underwater, you know just how different it sounds! A study by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) has found that human sounds can travel down to the seafloor and cause a disruption in the natural order of things.

Many animals use sound for echolocation, communication, and navigation. Marine life is no exception. Now, new evidence shows that human sounds “affect some invertebrates that live in or on the seafloor in ways that may impact important functions they provide for their ecosystem.”

Low-frequency noise pollution can impair the burrowing and other activities of marine animals. The study by AWI explains that even the lowest-frequency noise can cause animals on the seafloor to exhibit signs of stress. Crustaceans, mussels, and worms are the engineers of the ecosystem, changing the sediment they live in. By burrowing, feeding, and fertilizing, they maintain nutrient cycling which is critical for the ocean floor. Sound with frequencies between 10 and 500 Hz (Hertz) in the water can be transmitted over a far distance.

Noise pollution is one of the least studied subjects in terms of its effect on the ocean. Scientists at AWI are working to close this gap with their research. They studied how various animals were being affected by sound frequencies using ‘noise eggs’. They found that after just six days, all three species studied were exhibiting reactions to the noise, despite lacking organs for hearing. The animals studied exhibited signs of stress. They did not burrow as far or filter through sediment as quickly.

Marine ecosystems are already fragile. Human noise is only making it worse.

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