U.S. national parks are full of natural sounds. In Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors might hear the bugle of elks. At Yellowstone National Park, wolves howl in the distance. Iconic sounds like these are often associated with specific parks, creating unique soundscapes and enriching visitor experiences.
However, when you add human-made noise, these natural sounds are at risk.
“Anthropogenic” noise – sound caused by human activity – has the unintended impact of masking natural sounds important to both visitors and wildlife. Noise is increasingly prevalent in natural spaces. Not only does this take away from visitors’ experiences, but it also has significant ecological consequences. Many animals’ survival depends on listening for approaching predators, and successful breeding for some species hinges on listening for the song of a potential mate.
With these ecological consequences in mind, a team of scientists from Colorado State University and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) characterized the predominant human noise sources in 66 U.S. national parks in an effort to help parks better manage the noise problem. The study, “Anthropogenic noise in U.S. national parks – sources and spatial extent,” was published Oct. 2 in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.