Noisy environments can have detrimental effect on plants, study finds

Noisy environments can have detrimental effect on plants, study finds

Persistent noise from natural gas wells in New Mexico disrupted birds that feed on and distribute pinyon seeds

As humans proliferate, we have penetrated deeper into wildlife habitats, creating a pervasive rise in environmental sound with our gadgets, traffic and industry. A growing body of research has shown how noise pollution adversely affects animal behaviour – but a study suggests the detrimental effects have trickled down to plants as well.

To investigate the long-term ecological effects of persistent noise, researchers chose the Rattlesnake Canyon habitat management area in New Mexico. Dominated by woodland plants, the area in the US south-west contains a high density of natural gas wells, some of which are coupled with compressors that run continuously and generate chronic noise at up to 100 decibels. That is as loud “as being next to the speakers at a Black Sabbath concert or standing right next to the train tracks as the train goes by”, said Dr Jenny Phillips, who was lead author of the study while at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. Other wells are devoid of compressors.

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