Coronavirus: Silence Allows A Better Understanding Of Marine Fauna

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In the cities, the COVID-19 effect generated a reduction in pollution and gave nature a breather. Now, experts say that noise reduction in underwater space can also be good news for whales and other aquatic mammals.

After examining underwater sound signals in the laboratories of Ocean Networks Canada, near the port of Vancouver, the researchers found a significant drop in the low-frequency auditory stimuli associated with the movement of the ships.

David Barclay, professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University and lead author of an article reviewing these phenomena, analyzed the power of sound in water and found a strong reduction in noise. “We know that these sounds have effects on marine mammals,” said the specialist.

“From January 1 there has been a constant drop in noise, which meant a change of four or five decibels in the period until April 1,” he explained. These figures coincide with the economic data of the port that show a drop of around 20% in exports and imports during the same period of time.

This is not limited to the areas near the itineraries of the ships, but also the drop in noise is registered in the deep ocean, about sixty kilometers from the routes and under three thousand meters of water. The average decrease is 1.5 decibels, that is, a power 15% less than the previous one. These new conditions offer the ideal context for scientists to investigate their effect on marine life .

Michelle Fournet, a marine acoustician at Cornell University, who studies humpback whales in southeast Alaska, said, “This is a unique opportunity to hear that it will surely never happen again in our lives.”

The closest antecedent to this situation came after the September 11 terrorist attacks when airplane and ship traffic dropped in the United States and researchers were able to study whales in a calmer ocean. One of the most important studies published at the time concluded that boat noise is directly associated with chronic whale stress .

Scientists dedicated to studying oceans around the world are eager to collect data in the context of a unique opportunity to hear underwater life. Nathan Merchant, a bioacoustics expert at the UK government’s Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) said: “We are waiting for what our records say.” This center has hydrophones to collect information at four locations : two in the North Sea, one in Plymouth, and one near Bangor.

Coronavirus: Silence Allows A Better Understanding Of Marine Fauna

Merchant assured that there are international efforts to coordinate the work of monitoring underwater noise. “We are going to see how coronavirus affects marine ecosystems across Europe. Canada’s work will be the first of many,” said the expert, adding that “while we are facing a terrible crisis, we have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this experiment. that occurred naturally to discover the effects it produces. “


Source: La Nacion