One of today’s great environmental problems is deforestation, with million hectares of forest lost all over the planet in the last 30 years. Is deforestation It affects not only people who live in nearby areas, but also threatens endangered species and contributes to global warming. And forests are complex ecosystems, so the loss of trees can have wide-ranging implications for biodiversity, a topic that is now being studied using sound.
Researchers working on the Amazon jungle They collected acoustic data from below the forest canopy to build a robust picture of the forest, which they say can help indicate its health. “I have been working with tropical forests my entire professional life,” said researcher Danielle Rappaport in a release. “I have never been in a forest so devastated. It’s something you can smell, you can hear, it’s everywhere.”
Rappaport and colleagues used a network theory approach to analyze data from multiple recorders around the forest, listening to the overall soundscape rather than identifying the sounds of each individual species of birds, insects, primates, and more.
“It’s another step toward understanding the community of sound without needing to know which individual species are there because we’re starting to hear them in ways that help us connect coordinated sound production, even if we don’t know who’s making the noise.” said another of the researchers, Doug Morton.
These acoustic data were combined with NASA Landsat satellite data on logging or fire areas. Landsat data goes back more than 30 years, so it helps give a timeline of activity in the Amazon as it is affected by human behavior. It was supplemented with data showing a three-dimensional map of the rainforest canopy. Taken together, the soundscape can reveal surprising information about biodiversity in forests.
The research showed that although forests have some capacity to recover from logging, biodiversity in forests that have been logged repeatedly is worse than in those that have been logged only once.
“The sound data adds a new dimension to our understanding of the Amazon,” Morton said. “I am fascinated by what we still have to learn.”