Underwater noise in the marine environment is the focus of a new UK-wide research partnership to monitor the ‘soundscape’ in UK waters.
The Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) has teamed up with Marine Scotland Science and the University of Exeter to analyse underwater noise data from subsea sound recorders located around the UK coast.
Sources of noise in the ocean include shipping, seismic exploration, and construction activity, such as port extensions or offshore wind farms. There is concern that rising levels of underwater noise pollution worldwide may have an impact on marine life by interfering with communication, causing changes in behaviour, and raising stress levels.
For the first time ever, marine scientists will work together to produce an initial baseline assessment of background noise levels in UK coastal waters, including seasonal and annual patterns, as well as spatial differences. The work, funded by Defra and Marine Scotland, will help to inform the development of a UK-wide noise monitoring strategy, as part of the UK’s commitment to the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which seeks to attain Good Environmental Status in European seas by 2020.
A range of government, academic and marine science organisations in the UK are being consulted to scope the potential for a partnership-based approach to establishing a noise-monitoring programme. The findings and recommendations of the project will be available early next year.
Cefas Senior Scientist and Project Lead, Dr Nathan Merchant said: “This collaboration between leading UK marine science organisations enables us to share data, expertise and research findings in this increasingly important field. A partnership approach to marine noise monitoring will help us gain a deeper understanding of underwater noise and its impact on the marine environment, as well as providing a more cost-effective solution to establishing a UK-wide monitoring network.”