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Ocean Noise

21st century paradigms for measuring and managing the effects of anthropogenic ocean noise


Anthropogenic noise in the ocean has received considerable attention in recent years. Observational and manipulative experiments have provided insights into impacts of noise on animals as well as, in some cases, a lack of effects. The study of anthropogenic noise in the ocean has matured considerably, in part due to lessons learned and new tools developed for assessing similar issues in terrestrial systems. In considering the recent progress in this rapidly expanding field, this Open Access Theme Section highlights studies that explore both the increasing understanding of effects of noise on animals and some of the practical and regulatory human dimensions of this subject. The study of potential effects on animals has matured experimentally and theoretically, with careful experiments addressing specific questions and emerging issues related to the development of new areas and new industries. Furthermore, advances in sophisticated modelling methods of sound footprints and noise exposure over increasingly large spatio-temporal areas are facilitating the advancement of theory. Our appreciation of the human dimension of this issue has also developed, with practical considerations for the application of emerging science in regulatory policy. Many of these realizations that are explored within this Theme Section involve a broadening of the taxonomic and ecological scope of potential effects, as well as synoptic measurements and assessment of non-traditional variables (e.g. noise exposure context). This Theme Section fits squarely within ESR’s mission to provide knowledge needed for practicing human stewardship, in this case stewardship of the oceans. And while not all of the species discussed are threatened or endangered, the marine habitat is threatened and thus so are the creatures that exist and rely on it. We envision this Theme Section to inform regional, national and international conservation strategies aimed at understanding and managing anthropogenic noise in the ocean. Through various fora, stakeholders in this issue include: noise producers, regulators, conservation organizations, academic and private sector scientists, and society at large. This issue attempts to encapsulate issues relevant to all of these stakeholders within the overall context of science and management of ocean noise.


Date of completion: May 2018


Articles belonging to this Theme Section are listed below as well as on the contents page of the respective volume of publication.


Editors: Douglas P. Nowacek, Ph.D., Duke University, NC, USA (Guest Editor;; Brandon L. Southall, Ph.D., Southall Environmental Associates Santa Cruz, CA, USA (Guest Editor; ); Wendy E. Dow Piniak, Ph.D., Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA, USA (Guest Editor; )



Ellison WT, Racca R, Clark CW, Streever B, Frankel AS, Fleishman E, Angliss R, Berger J, Ketten D, Guerra M, Leu M, McKenna M, Sformo T, Southall B, Suydam R, Thomas L
Modeling the aggregated exposure and responses of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus to multiple sources of anthropogenic underwater sound
ESR 30:95-108 | Full text in pdf format


Hatch LT, Wahle CM, Gedamke J, Harrison J, Laws B, Moore SE, Stadler JH, Van Parijs SM

Can you hear me here? Managing acoustic habitat in US waters

ESR 30:171-186 | Full text in pdf format


Tennessen JB, Parks SE

Acoustic propagation modeling indicates vocal compensation in noise improves communication range for North Atlantic right whales

ESR 30:225-237 | Full text in pdf format


Estabrook BJ, Ponirakis DW, Clark CW, Rice AN

Widespread spatial and temporal extent of anthropogenic noise across the northeastern Gulf of Mexico shelf ecosystem

ESR 30:267-282 | Full text in pdf format


Dahlheim M, Castellote M

Changes in the acoustic behavior of gray whales Eschrichtius robustus in response to noise

ESR 31:227-242 | Full text in pdf format


Curé C, Isojunno S, Visser F, Wensveen PJ, Sivle LD, Kvadsheim PH, Lam FPA, Miller PJO

Biological significance of sperm whale responses to sonar: comparison with anti-predator responses

ESR 31:89-102 | Full text in pdf format


McKenna MF, Shannon G, Fristrup K

Characterizing anthropogenic noise to improve understanding and management of impacts to wildlife

ESR 31:279-291 | Full text in pdf format


Southall BL, Nowacek DP, Miller PJO, Tyack PL

REVIEW: Experimental field studies to measure behavioral responses of cetaceans to sonar

ESR 31:293-315 | Full text in pdf format


Small RJ, Brost B, Hooten M, Castellote M, Mondragon J

Potential for spatial displacement of Cook Inlet beluga whales by anthropogenic noise in critical habitat

ESR 32:43-57 | Full text in pdf format


Redfern JV, Hatch LT, Caldow C, DeAngelis ML, Gedamke J, Hastings S, Henderson L, McKenna MF, Moore TJ, Porter MB

Assessing the risk of chronic shipping noise to baleen whales off Southern California, USA

ESR 32:153-167 | Full text in pdf format


Forney KA, Southall BL, Slooten E, Dawson S, Read AJ, Baird RW, Brownell RL Jr

Nowhere to go: noise impact assessments for marine mammal populations with high site fidelity

ESR 32:391-413 | Full text in pdf format


Frankel AS, Gabriele CM

Predicting the acoustic exposure of humpback whales from cruise and tour vessel noise in Glacier Bay, Alaska, under different management strategies

ESR 34:397-415 | Full text in pdf format ´


Cholewiak D, Clark CW, Ponirakis D, Frankel A, Hatch LT, Risch D, Stanistreet JE, Thompson M, Vu E,
Van Parijs SM

Communicating amidst the noise: modeling the aggregate influence of ambient and vessel noise on baleen whale communication space in a national marine sanctuary

ESR 36:59-75 | Full text in pdf format