Trends and knowledge gaps in field research investigating effects of anthropogenic noise

Paul Jerem, Fiona Mathews

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Anthropogenic noise is a globally widespread sensory pollutant, recognized as having potentially adverse effects on function, demography, and physiology in wild animals. Human population growth and associated changes in urbanization, transportation, and resource extraction all contribute to anthropogenic noise and are predicted to increase in the coming decades. Wildlife exposure to anthropogenic noise is expected to rise correspondingly. Data collected through field research are uniquely important in advancing understanding of the real-world repercussions of human activity on wildlife. We, therefore, performed a systematic review of literature published from 2008 to 2018 that reported on field investigations of anthropogenic noise impacts. We evaluated publication metrics (e.g., publication rates and journal type), geographical distribution of studies, study subject, and methods used. Research activity increased markedly over the assessment period. However, there was a pronounced geographical bias in research, with most being conducted in North America or Europe, and a notable focus on terrestrial environments. Fewer than one-fifth of terrestrial studies were located in rural areas likely to experience urbanization by 2030, meaning data on ecosystems most likely to be affected by future changes are not being gathered. There was also bias in the taxonomic groups investigated. Most research was conducted on birds and aquatic mammals, whereas terrestrial mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates received limited attention. Almost all terrestrial studies examined diurnal species, despite evidence that nocturnality is the prevailing animal activity pattern. Nearly half the studies investigated effects of road or urban noise; the bulk of research was restricted to functional, rather than physiological or demographic consequences. Few experimental studies addressed repercussions of long-term exposure to anthropogenic noise or long-term postexposure effects, and multiple noise types or levels were rarely compared. Tackling these knowledge gaps will be vital for successful management of the effects of increasing wildlife exposure to anthropogenic noise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)Pages 115-129
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number1
Early online date11 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


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