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Impacts of ship noise on marine life: new discoveries in research

Room: Lomond Auditorium     2014-08-15; 11:00 - 13:00

NB: Unless specified otherwise, presentations are 15 minutes in length, and speed presentations are 5 mins in length.

SY82.1  11:00  Key issues in spatiotemporal data and analysis of vessel movement patterns as an indicator of marine noise. Canessa, R *, University of Victoria; O\'Hara, PD Environment Canada; Serra-Sogas, N University of Victoria; Pelot, R Dalhousie University;

Abstract: There is increasing interest in modeling noise pollution in the marine environment from marine vessels. This is of acute concern in the southern Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada. The area is important habitat for numerous marine mammal species and is also frequented by high volumes of recreational boats, fishing boats, tugs, ferries, cruise ships, carriers and tankers, which are expected to increase with oil pipeline and terminal expansions. Fundamental to understanding marine vessel noise is understanding spatiotemporal patterns of vessel movements, typically represented as vessel density, as an indicator of noise. However, inadequate attention is often given to the source of vessel movement data, and the opportunities and limitations of integrating multiple sources from which to then model noise. In addition, most attention is focused on large vessels more easily captured by AIS to the exclusion of smaller vessels such as recreational and fishing boats. This study advances our understanding of data and analytical considerations for using spatiotemporal patterns of vessel movement as an indicator of marine noise by examining (1) integration of various sources of large vessel movement data; (2) small vessel movement data not captured by AIS; and (3) development of spatiotemporal scenarios of future vessel movement patterns taking into account anticipated increases in traffic.

SY82.2  11:15  Noise exposure from shipping in the Strait of Georgia. Merchant, Nathan D *, Syracuse University; Dakin, D. Tom Ocean Networks Canada; Dorocicz, John Ocean Networks Canada; O\'Hara, Patrick D. Environment Canada; Dewey, Richard K. Ocean Networks Canada;

Abstract: Underwater noise from shipping is increasingly recognized as a significant and pervasive pollutant with the potential to impact marine ecosystems on a global scale. In the Northeast Pacific, levels of underwater noise are rising as global trade and coastal development continue to expand. Marine fauna in this region, including several marine mammal and fish species, may be affected by communication masking and by behavioural, physiological, and developmental responses to this activity. To enable management of these effects and develop mitigation strategies, there is a need to establish current noise levels and determine the contribution of anthropogenic sources. This study focuses on the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, a habitat for endangered killer whales and acoustically receptive fish species, which lies on the main shipping route into the Port of Vancouver, one of the busiest ports in North America. We combine acoustic data from the VENUS cabled ocean observatory (operated by Ocean Networks Canada) with AIS ship-tracking data and environmental variables. We assess the contribution of vessel passages to noise exposure, and discuss the audibility and potential effects of this noise on resident species. By analysing the contributions of AIS-tracked and untracked vessels, we also explore whether noise exposure in this habitat could be modelled based on AIS data, which would help to identify areas of greatest concern for the conservation of acoustically sensitive species.

SY82.3  11:30  Engaging diverse audiences to advance management solutions for underwater noise. Blight, Louise K , Procellaria Research & Consulting; Wright, Andrew J. *Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University; Nowlan, Linda WWF-Canada;

Abstract: In 2011, WWF-Vancouver began a multi-year project designed to advance management and understanding of underwater noise in Canada’s Pacific. In this talk we describe how a small team made rapid progress around this complex emerging issue through involving a wide range of partners, from local to international levels. At the start of our project, outside the marine science community there was relatively little awareness about underwater noise as a conservation concern, especially regarding vessel-generated noise. To build understanding we engaged with diverse audiences while simultaneously developing scientific knowledge and policy proposals. Projects have been strategically chosen, including development of regional sound propagation models to identify shipping noise hotspots; introducing noise management into marine spatial planning; working with the maritime industry to develop support for vessel noise reduction; and communicating to the public via social and mainstream media. Local successes fed into international processes, including helping draft International Maritime Organization Guidelines to Reduce Underwater Noise from Commercial Shipping, and working with WWF-International to develop the report Reducing Impacts of Noise from Human Activities on Cetaceans. WWF is well-placed to work at multiple levels and with multiple partners; other NGOs may be similarly placed to broker solutions to this complex issue.

SY82.4  11:45  Chronic ocean noise and critical whale habitats: mitigation through marine spatial planning or allowable harm limits to target populations. Williams, Rob *, Oceans Initiative; Thomas, Len University of St. Andrews; Ashe, Erin Oceans Initiative; Clark, Christopher W Cornell University; Erbe, Christine Curtin University; Hammond, Philip S University of St. Andrews;

Abstract: Pressing challenges in marine conservation and management include the need for research methods to quantify cumulative impacts of both lethal and sub-lethal stressors on impacted populations, and policy decisions about tolerable harm levels to human activities that degrade habitats. Illustrated using marine mammal examples, we outline ways that ocean noise can affect individuals, populations and ecosystems. We discuss two ways to mitigate harmful effects: setting allowable harm limits at the level of the population; and marine spatial planning to identify priority areas for mitigation, or 'Quiet Marine Protected Areas' (Q-MPAs). We used the US Marine Mammal Protection Act’s Potential Biological Removal equation as a placeholder definition of allowable harm and constructed matrix-based models to estimate the proportion of prey reduction required to exceed stated objectives for allowable harm. We identified populations for which a prey-demography link was available, and “reverse-engineered” limits for two marine mammal populations (humpback and killer whales). From a marine spatial planning view, MPAs offer a powerful tool to separate valued ecosystem components from threatening processes, such as fishing. We illustrate two complementary approaches for area-based management of exposure to chronic anthropogenic noise, and outline the numerous benefits, including maintaining ecological integrity inside Q-MPAs and resilience in the face of additional anthropogenic stressors.

SY82.5  12:00  Rapid recovery following noise exposure? Bruintjes, Rick *, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom; Purser, Julia School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom; Radford, Andrew R. School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom; Simpson, Stephen D. Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom;

Abstract: Anthropogenic noise is recognized as a word-wide problem and recent studies have shown a broad range of negative effects in a variety of taxa. However, studies investigating the direct aftermath of noise exposure on individuals, as noise might have detrimental carry-over effects or individuals may show rapid recovery, have been lacking. Given that additional noise is transitory, unlike other pollutants, the question remains as to whether animals rapidly recover or continue to be affected for some time once exposure stops. During acute playback of additional-noise the threatened European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has recently been shown to increases ventilation rate (indicating increased stress) as well as fewer and slower startle responses following attacks of a simulated ambush predators (suggesting impaired attention). To examine potential recovery or carry-over effects of noise exposure we performed two experiments and subjected eels to: (1) playback of additional-noise recordings followed by control-noise playbacks, or (2) exposure to two different control-noise recordings. During these playbacks we recorded (a) ventilation rate and (b) startle response to a simulated ambush predator. These results are the first to show that the effects of anthropogenic noise can be short-lived and suggest that instant reduction in anthropogenic noise output may decrease the detrimental effects of man-made noise for many species.

SY82.6  12:15  The effect of ship noise on the behaviour and physiology of Carcinus maenas. Wale, Matthew *, Edinburgh Napier University, UK; Simpson, Stephen University of Exeter, UK; Radford, Andrew University of Bristol, UK;

Abstract: Contrary to earlier conceptions, it has now been realised that marine invertebrates can be very sensitive to sound, however whilst they represent a considerable portion of marine fauna and are essential components in ecosystem dynamics, how they are impacted by anthropogenic noise has received scant attention. We used a series of carefully controlled experiments to investigate how the playback of ship noise affects both the behaviour (foraging and anti-predator) and physiology (oxygen consumption) of the shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Compared to exposure to playback of ambient harbour noise, ship-noise playback resulted in crabs becoming more distracted from food, taking longer to find shelter in response to a simulated predation event, and righting themselves more quickly when turned on their backs. Single exposure to playback of ship noise also led to significantly higher oxygen consumption (indicating a higher metabolic rate and potentially increased stress), with larger individuals affected more strongly. When repeatedly exposed to ship-noise playback, crabs continued to consume oxygen at an elevated level, providing no obvious evidence of habituation or tolerance. In combination, these results highlight that invertebrates, like vertebrates, may also be susceptible to the detrimental impacts of anthropogenic noise, and that elevated risks of starvation and predation may arise.

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