Two of the early consultants were Bernie Krause of Wild Sanctuary and Stuart Gage of the Michigan State Univerisity's Computational Ecology and Visualization Laboratory. Krause began by spending a week at a time in Sequoia-King's Canyon National Park, making day and night recordings of the full community of sound in several different locations in each season. Once back home, Krause and his colleagues at Michigan State analyze the tapes in an effort to establish sonic benchmarks, a sort of voiceprint of the habitat. Over time, the goals include developing un-manned recording systems that can monitor the soundscape in more detail, and using the recordings as a reliable method of monitoring and measuing ecosystem health.
In addition to the scientific goals of this project, the Park Service is also moving to create interpretive guides for visitors that highlight sound. A manual for park personnel, which includes material from several longtime natural sound recordists and bioacoustics researchers, is already in circulation at the parks, and training sessions are planned with park interpretive specialists in the coming years.
Meanwhile, consideration of the effects of noise and sound is becoming a routine part of most managment planning in agencies ranging from the BLM to NOAA and the National Forest Service. While noise analysis is often not particularly sophisticated or detailed, the inclusion of such considerations is a step in the right direction; as citizens and organizations submit comments with more detailed suggestions regarding sound, management plans will mature in this regard.
In Europe, the Campaign to Protect Rural England has drawn on extensive surveys and sound monitoring data to inform their campaign to protect "tranquility." Utilizing somewhat different metrics than the NPS soundscape program, this comprehensive approach is also very exciting.
National Park Service Soundscape Program
New! (June 09): Yosemite National Park reports on 2 summers of soundscape studies. This page at the Yosemite website includes graphic and narrative overviews of recent soundscape studies, as well as a link to a 32-minute podcast. [WEBSITE]
Campaign to Protect Rural England Tranquility Program
One Square Inch of Silence - On Earth Day 2005, recordist and soundscape champion Gordon Hempton initiated a private research project, designating one of the quietest corners of the US's most quiet National Park as the first "One Square Inch of Silence." By protecting one tiny spot from any human noise, a much larger area will share the benefit. The spot was chosen due to the lack of human noise, and will be monitored, with the intention of encouraging voluntary cessation of any new human noise intrusions. [WEBSITE]
Glacier Bay Acoustic Monitoring Program - Glacier Bay National Park is home to a dazzling array of wildlife, including humpback whales, which attracts cruise ships and private boaters. The Park has instituted a 500m buffer from all animals, and is engaged in long-term acoustic monitoring, aimed at creating "noise goals" for the future. [WEBSITE] [RESEARCH REPORTS FROM GLACIER BAY] [SOUNDS RECORDED IN GLACIER BAY]
Biscayne National Park Soundscape Study - The first national park to initiate an in-depth study of its soundscape resources, begun in the year 2000. The park posted two web pages of interest:
ENN Article on Park Service program [WEBSITE]
Symposium on Preservation of Natural Quiet - A special session of the 1999 conference of the Acoustical Society of America brought together representatives of the National Park Service, private consulting companies, natural sound recordists, and others. Abstracts and Acrobat files of the papers given there (still a valuable introduction to issues in the field) are available on a web site run by the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise. [WEBSITE]
HMMH National Park Soundscape page: a Framework for Soundscape Analysis - Since 1990, the consulting firm Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hansom has done research for the NPS on sound issues. Beginning with studies of airplane overflight noise, they have expanded their scope to include full soundscape studies. An overview page on their web site includes several useful graphs, including a model for charting a variety of sonic impacts on a minute-by-minute basis. [WEBSITE]
2007 USGS report: Environmental Effects of Off-Highway Vehicles on Bureau of Land Management Lands: A Literature Synthesis, Annotated Bibliographies, Extensive Bibliographies, and Internet Resources. [DOWNLOAD REPORT]
The Wilderness Society Sound Propagation GIS toolkit - The Wilderness Society has created a very useful tool for anyone addressing noise on public lands: a GIS version of the System for the Prediction of Acoustic Detectability (SPreAD), a noise model issued by the Forest Service and EPA for land managers to "evaluate potential...acoustic impacts when planning the multiple uses of an area." The SPreAD model combines the full range of factors affecting sound propagation across landscapes (spherical spreading, atmospheric absorption, foliage and ground cover, down/upwind effects, topographic barriers and channels) in order to predict how far from a road a vehicle is likely to be heard. [SEE SPreAD USERS GUIDE] [SEE TWS DOC SUPPORTING SOUNDSCAPE ANALYSIS IN BLM PLANNING]