Listening to Ocean Quieted by COVID-19
Travel and economic slowdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic combined to put the brakes on shipping, seafloor exploration and many other human activities in the ocean, creating a unique moment to begin a time-series study of the impacts of sound on marine life.
A community of scientists has identified more than 200 nonmilitary ocean hydrophones worldwide and hopes to make the most of the unprecedented opportunity to pool their recorded data into the 2020 quiet ocean assessment and to help monitor the ocean soundscape long into the future. They aim for a total of 500 hydrophones capturing the signals of whales and other marine life while assessing the racket levels of human activity.
Combined with other sea life monitoring tools and methods such as animal tagging, the work will help reveal the extent to which noise in “the Anthropocene seas” impacts ocean species.
Of the 231 nonmilitary hydrophones identified to February 2021, several have agreed to their geographic coordinates and other metadata being shown on the IQOE website (https://www.iqoe.org/systems), with organizers hoping to attract many more contributors.
Of the hydrophones identified, most are in U.S. and Canadian waters, with increasing numbers elsewhere, particularly in Europe. Meanwhile, more acoustic instrumentation and measurements are clearly needed across the Southern Hemisphere.
The researchers are working to create a global data repository with contributors using standardized methods, tools and depths to measure and document ocean soundscapes and effects on the distribution and behavior of vocalizing animals.