Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary Ocean Noise Research
The waters of Massachusetts Bay are utilized by people in many different ways, including boating, whale-watching, fishing, shipping, and a number of other commercial activities. These waters are also home to over twenty species of marine mammals, so we often overlap with one another. Many of our oceanic activities generate high levels of underwater noise, which can interfere with the ability of other animals to communicate with one another. This phenomenon is known as “communication masking”, and is particularly a concern in urbanized coastal environments.
The objectives of this project are to map the ocean noise throughout the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) ecosystem, identify both the anthropogenic and biological sources of noise, and evaluate the impacts of human-produced underwater sound on marine mammals and fish that use the Sanctuary. Furthermore, the project will develop a set of acoustic tools designed to be transferable to other ecological regions.
Arrays of bottom-mounted Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) have been deployed since December 2007 to continuously record low-frequency sound in the Sanctuary. Recordings from these units are analyzed for the presence of vocally-active baleen whales and fish species. MARU data are also combined with data from the US Coast Guard’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to calculate noise budget contributions from AIS-tracked vessels in the area. Ship and whale data are integrated to investigate the potential effects of vessel noise on the acoustic communication of marine mammals. This project is a collaborative effort between NEFSC, Cornell University’s Bioacoustic Research Program, Marine Acoustics, Inc. and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and is funded by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.
For more information, see also http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/science/passive_acoustics.html
The NOAA CetSound Project
In a January 19, 2010 letter to the President's Council on Environmental Quality, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco committed to improving the tools used by the agency to evaluate the impacts of human-induced noise on cetacean species. As a result, two data and product-driven working groups were convened in January 2011: the Underwater Sound-field Mapping Working Group and the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group. In May 2012, the working groups presented their products at a Symposium where potential management applications were discussed with a large multi-stakeholder audience.
Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group:
The specific objective of the NOAA Underwater Sound Field Mapping Working Group (SoundMap) is to create mapping methods to depict the temporal, spatial, and spectral characteristics of underwater noise.
Check out products, like the map of global shipping traffic (right), here.
Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Working Group:
The specific objective of the Cetacean Density and Distribution Mapping Group (CetMap) is to create regional cetacean density and distribution maps that are time- and species-specific, using survey data and models that estimate density using predictive environmental factors. Separately, to augment the more quantitative density mapping and provide additional context for impact analyses, the CetMap is also identifying known areas of specific importance for cetaceans, such as reproductive areas, feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small or resident populations are concentrated.
Check out products, like the sperm whale density map (left), here.