HR Wallingford and Loughborough University to Develop New Underwater Noise Model (UK)

HR Wallingford and Loughborough University to Develop New Underwater Noise Model (UK)

HR Wallingford, the international hydraulic and environmental engineering consultancy, has formed a partnership with Loughborough University to develop a new underwater acoustic propagation and noise-impact model.

Designed to work with proven HR Wallingford ecological models, the new model is an important first step in assessing the impact of underwater noise on fish and sea mammal behaviour. It can be applied in marine renewable energy, oil and gas extraction, dredging and other settings.“Our new underwater noise-impact modelling tool is being designed to assist environmental impact assessment practitioners and developers,” says HR Wallingford Environment Group Manager, Nicola Clay. “In this topical and increasingly important area, our new tool will help them to apply the best available science to a wide range of situations.”

Increased scrutiny

The significant noise generated by marine construction and operation, and its possible effects on marine life, have come under increased scrutiny worldwide. Where activities take place in and near sensitive marine areas, there is particular concern.

Within the European Union, sound is now a recognised pollutant at both project and regional seas levels.

In the UK, construction has started of ‘Round 3’ windfarms, some of the largest to be built in British waters, and there is an urgent need to understand their impact on marine life.

How the new model works

The model uses temporally and spatially varying parameters such as tidal water depth, flow velocity, salinity, temperature and bathymetry from HR Wallingford’s hydrodynamic model simulations.

Modelled noise amplitude and frequency are used as inputs, or ‘behavioural cues’. These are then inputted into HR Wallingford’s established and successful dynamic ecological response models, enabling users to assess marine-species responses to human disturbances.


Offshore WIND staff, November 17, 2011; Image: hrwallingford