Limited vocal compensation for elevated ambient noise in bearded seals: implications for an industrializing Arctic Ocean

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2021
Authors:Fournet, Silvestri, Clark, Klinck, Rice
Keywords:bearded seal advertisement, changing Arctic, Lombard effect, noise impacts

Vocalizing animals have several strategies to compensate for elevated ambient noise. These behaviours evolved under historical conditions, but compensation limits are quickly being reached in the Anthropocene. Acoustic communication is essential to male bearded seals that vocalize for courtship and defending territories. As Arctic sea ice declines, industrial activities and associated anthropogenic noise are likely to increase. Documenting how seals respond to noise and identifying naturally occurring behavioural thresholds would indicate either their resilience or vulnerability to changing soundscapes. We investigated whether male bearded seals modified call amplitudes in response to changing ambient noise levels. Vocalizing seals increased their call amplitudes until ambient noise levels reached an observable threshold, above which call source levels stopped increasing. The presence of a threshold indicates limited noise compensation for seals, which still renders them vulnerable to acoustic masking of vocal signals. This behavioural threshold and response to noise is critical for developing management plans for an industrializing Arctic.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith