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Forest growth can be stunted by noise pollution, study shows

Sunday, April 18th 2021, 2:30 pm - A new study indicates the effects of noise on forest growth could be long-lasting and an immediate removal of it may not result in a quick recovery.

It's no secret that noise can be disruptive to animals and humans, but a new study has found that it can also prevent forests from growing.

A New Mexico woodland mostly consisting of pinyon pine and juniper trees, researchers discovered there are less tree seedlings in sites with noisy backgrounds than in tranquil locations.

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The area that was examined has many natural gas wells, some that are quiet while others have compressors that make a consistent commotion. This allowed the researchers to compare sites that were alike other than the noise level.

"We found support for long-term negative effects of noise on tree seedling recruitment, evenness of woody plants and increasingly dissimilar vegetation communities with differences in noise levels," outlined in the study, conducted by Jennifer N. Phillips, Sarah E. Termondt and Clinton D. Francis.

forest credit: andrew coelho via unsplash A new study indicates the effects of noise on forest growth could be long-lasting and an immediate removal of it may not result in a quick recovery. Photo: Andrew Coelho/Unsplash.

For at least a 15-year period, the fact-finders found only about 13 pinyon seedlings and four juniper seedlings per hectare, whereas 55 pinyon seedlings and 29 juniper seedlings per hectare were uncovered in peaceful areas.

It was documented that pinyons only generate seeds once every five to seven years, so recovery time is a slow process. In prior noise-filled sites that had been silent for the previous two to four years, junipers had begun to grow one more, but pinyon seedlings were still limited.

It wasn't just those plants that were affected, according to the study. The noise was found to be a problem for the entire vegetation community, with various wildflower and shrub species in control in loud versus quiet sites.

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It was also discovered that seedling efforts and plant community configuration didn't recover following the removal of the noise sources, possibly partly due to a lag in recuperation among animals that disperse and pollinate plants.

"Our results add to the limited evidence that noise has cascading ecological effects. Moreover, these effects may be long-lasting and noise removal may not lead to immediate recovery," the authors said in the study.

The full findings were recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Thumbnail courtesy of Andrew Coelho/Unsplash

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