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Audio recordings of Hurricanes Irma and Maria's passage over Puerto Rico document how the calls of coastal critters changed in response to the deadly storms. The hurricanes caused a major disruption in the acoustic activity of snapping shrimp, a reduction in insect and bird sounds, and potentially an intensification of fish choruses, according to new research presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting Friday.
In March 2017, researchers set up acoustic monitoring sites in coastal forests and coral reefs on Puerto Rico's southwest coast to continuously record the area's ambient sounds. Their goal was to capture the region's land and sea soundscapes - especially the cacophony of sounds created by animal vocalizations - and document how and why they change over time.
Passage - Hurricanes - Irma - Maria - Puerto
But the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria over Puerto Rico in September gave the researchers an unexpected look at how coastal soundscapes change in response to natural disasters. Although the hurricanes did not directly hit the study area, audio recordings reveal the storms had noticeable short-term effects on fish choruses, snapping shrimp activity in coral reefs, and bird and insect calls on land.
The recordings show fish increased the intensity of their nightly choruses in the days following Hurricane Irma. The clicking of snapping shrimp, which are among the loudest animal noises in the ocean, plummeted during Hurricane Maria, and the daily snapping rhythm was disrupted for several days.
Forests - Maria - Effects - Soundscape - Reduction
In nearby dry forests, Maria had longer-lasting effects on the soundscape. There was a marked reduction in insect sounds during the three weeks after the storm. Listen to time-lapse recordings of changes to insect sounds, fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity here.
The results show how scientists can use the soundscape as a measure of biodiversity and environmental change, according to the researchers. Capturing responses from a variety of species at the same time...
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