Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Human Noise Has Ripple Effects on Plants

27.03.2012
Clamor affects more than birds and other animals

A growing body of research shows that birds and other animals change their behavior in response to human noise, such as the din of traffic or the hum of machinery.

But human clamor doesn't just affect animals.

Because many animals also pollinate plants or eat or disperse their seeds, human noise can have ripple effects on plants, too, finds a new study reported in the March 21, 2012, issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In cases where noise has ripple effects on long-lived plants like trees, the consequences could last for decades, even after the source of the noise goes away, says lead author Clinton Francis of the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

In previous studies, Francis and colleagues found that some animals increase in numbers near noisy sites, while others decline.

But could animals' different responses to human noise have indirect effects on plants, too?

To find out, the researchers conducted a series of experiments from 2007 to 2010 in the Bureau of Land Management's Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area in northwestern New Mexico.

The region is home to thousands of natural gas wells, many of which are coupled with noisy compressors for extracting the gas and transporting it through pipelines.

The compressors roar and rumble day and night, every day of the year.

The advantage of working in natural gas sites is they allow scientists to study noise and its effects on wildlife without the confounding factors in noisy areas like roadways or cities, such as pollution from artificial light and chemicals, or collisions with cars.

As part of their research, Francis and colleagues first conducted an experiment using patches of artificial plants designed to mimic a common red wildflower in the area called scarlet gilia.

Each patch consisted of five artificial plants with three "flowers" each--microcentrifuge tubes wrapped in red electrical tape--which were filled with a fixed amount of sugar water for nectar.

To help in estimating pollen transfer within and between the patches, the researchers also dusted the flowers of one plant per patch with artificial pollen, using a different color for each patch.

Din levels at noisy patches were similar to that of a highway heard from 500 meters away, Francis said.

When the researchers compared the number of pollinator visits at noisy and quiet sites, they found that one bird species in particular--the black-chinned hummingbird--made five times more visits to noisy sites than quiet ones.

"Black-chinned hummingbirds may prefer noisy sites because another bird species that preys on their nestlings, the western scrub jay, tends to avoid those areas," Francis said.

Pollen transfer was also more common in the noisy sites.

If more hummingbird visits and greater pollen transfer translate to higher seed production for the plants, the results suggest that "hummingbird-pollinated plants such as scarlet gilia may indirectly benefit from noise," Francis said.

Another set of experiments revealed that noise may indirectly benefit some plants, but is bad news for others.

In a second series of experiments at the same study site, the researchers set out to discover what noise might mean for tree seeds and seedlings, using one of the dominant trees in the area--the piñon pine.

Piñon pine seeds that aren't plucked from their cones fall to the ground and are eaten by birds and other animals.

To find out if noise affected the number of piñon pine seeds that animals ate, the researchers scattered piñon pine seeds beneath 120 piñon pine trees in noisy and quiet sites, using a motion-triggered camera to figure out what animals took the seeds.

After three days, several animals were spotted feeding on the seeds, including mice, chipmunks, squirrels, birds and rabbits.

But two animals in particular differed between quiet and noisy sites--mice, which preferred noisy sites, and western scrub jays, which avoided them altogether.

Piñon pine seeds that are eaten by mice don't survive the passage through the animal's gut, Francis said, so the boost in mouse populations near noisy sites could be bad news for pine seedlings in those areas.

In contrast, a single western scrub jay may take hundreds to thousands of seeds, only to hide them in the soil to eat later in the year.

The seeds they fail to relocate will eventually germinate, so the preference of western scrub jays for quiet areas means that piñon pines in those areas are likely to benefit.

In keeping with their seed results, the researchers counted the number of piñon pine seedlings and found that they were four times as abundant in quiet sites compared with noisy ones.

It may take decades for a piñon pine to grow from a seedling into a full-grown tree, Francis said, so the consequences of noise may last longer than scientists thought.

"Fewer seedlings in noisy areas might eventually mean fewer mature trees, but because piñon pines are so slow-growing the shift could have gone undetected for years," he said.

"Fewer piñon pine trees would mean less critical habitat for the hundreds of species that depend on them for survival."

Other authors of the study include Catherine Ortega, most recently of Fort Lewis College, and Alexander Cruz and Nathan Kleist of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF (703) 292-7734 cdybas@nsf.gov
Robin Ann Smith, NESCENT (919) 668-4544 rsmith@nescent.org
Related Websites
NSF National Evolutionary Synthesis Center: http://www.nescent.org/
he National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2012, its budget is $7.0 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives over 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards nearly $420 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When corals eat plastics

24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Surgery involving ultrasound energy found to treat high blood pressure

24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering

First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-IR

24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>