Species sensitivities to a global pollutant: A meta-analysis on acoustic signals in response to anthropogenic noise

Hansjoerg Kunc, Rouven Schmidt

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22 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


Anthropogenically driven environmental changes affect our planet at an unprecedented rate. Among these changes are those in the acoustic environment caused by anthropogenic noise, which can affect both animals and humans. In many species, acoustic communication plays a crucial role to maintain social relationships by exchanging information via acoustic signals. However, how species relying on acoustic communication differ in their adjustments to anthropogenic noise is little understood. Yet, this is crucial because protecting species effectively depends on our capability to predict how species differ in their response to human‐induced environmental changes. Using a phylogenetically controlled meta‐analysis, we quantified differences in adjustments of acoustic signals to anthropogenic noise among species. The effect sizes included in the analysis were obtained from noise exposure experiments, as only carefully controlled experiments allow to establish cause‐and‐effect relationships. We found that animals changed acoustic signals when exposed to noise, but the magnitude and the direction of adjustments differed among species. Given the importance of communication in the animal kingdom, these adjustments can affect social relationships in many species. The diversity of responses among species highlights the necessity to assess the effect of environmental stressors not only for a few species, because an effect may be positive in one species but negative in another depending on the species’ biology. Thus, an effective conservation approach to protect different species is to preserve natural soundscapes of ecosystems to which species have adapted to by reducing or mitigating the emission of anthropogenic noise into the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number3
Early online date01 Dec 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Dec 2020


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