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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 645:1-23 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13373

FEATURE ARTICLE
Sound characterization and fine-scale spatial mapping of an estuarine soundscape in the southeastern USA

Claire Mueller1,#, Agnieszka Monczak1,2,#, Jamileh Soueidan1, Bradshaw McKinney1, Somers Smott1,3, Tony Mills4, Yiming Ji5, Eric W. Montie1,#,*

1Department of Natural Sciences, University of South Carolina Beaufort, Bluffton, SC 29909, USA
2Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
3Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33149, USA
4The Lowcountry Institute, Okatie, SC 29909, USA
5Department of Computer Science, University of South Carolina Beaufort, Bluffton, SC 29909, USA
#These authors contributed equally to this work
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Estuaries are areas known for biological diversity, and their soundscapes reflect the acoustic signals used by organisms to communicate, defend territories, reproduce, and forage in an environment that has limited visibility. These biological sounds may be rhythmic in nature, spatially heterogeneous, and can provide information on habitat quality. The goal of our study was to investigate the temporal and spatial variability of sounds in Chechessee Creek (Stns CC1 and CC2) and an adjacent saltwater impoundment (Great Salt Pond, GSP) in South Carolina, USA, from April to November 2016. Fixed recording platforms revealed that sound pressure levels (SPLs) were significantly higher in CC1 and CC2 compared to GSP. We detected some biological sounds in GSP (snapping shrimp genera Alpheus and Synalpheus, silver perch Bairdiella chrysoura, oyster toadfish Opsanus tau, spotted seatrout Cynoscion nebulosus, Atlantic croaker Micropogonias undulatus, and American alligator Alligator mississippiensis); however, biological sound was much more prevalent in CC1 and CC2. In Chechessee Creek, snapping shrimp, oyster toadfish, and spotted seatrout sounds followed distinct temporal rhythms. Using these data, we conducted spatial passive acoustic surveys in Chechessee Creek. We discovered elevated high frequency SPLs (representing snapping shrimp acoustic activity) near an anti-erosion wall, as well as increased low frequency SPLs (indicating spotted seatrout spawning aggregations) near the anti-erosion wall and at the mouth of Chechessee Creek. This study has demonstrated the utility of combining stationary and mobile recording platforms to detect acoustic hotspots of biological sounds.


KEY WORDS: Estuaries · Soundscapes · Tidal creek · Saltwater impoundment · Snapping shrimp · Fish · Hydrophone surveys


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Cite this article as: Mueller C, Monczak A, Soueidan J, McKinney B and others (2020) Sound characterization and fine-scale spatial mapping of an estuarine soundscape in the southeastern USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 645:1-23. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13373

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