Scientists are recording the sound of the whole planet

Josh Dzieza, writing for The Verge:

The issue of mechanical noise was a major theme of the workshop, and of soundscape ecology in general. Falk Huettmann from the University of Alaska Fairbanks projected a noise map of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge made by his graduate student Tim Mullett. Mullett had traveled deep into the glacial refuge to set up microphones, going high into the mountains dozens of miles from the nearest road. He still found mechanical noise everywhere, mostly from airplanes and snowmobiles.

Speaking grimly in a German accent, Huettmann declared, “We need to abandon the idea of wilderness. It doesn’t exist.”

Mechanical noise impacts different animals in different ways. In some cases — sonar and marine mammals, to name one — it’s disorienting and damaging. In others, animals adapt in ways we’re just beginning to understand. Grasshoppers that live near roads evolve to call at a higher pitch, to be heard over traffic noise. Even when taken to a silent room in a lab, they stridulate at a higher frequency than more rural grasshoppers, which makes sense — only grasshoppers that can be heard above the cars would find a mate.

Great read. Extremely interesting, and deeply unsettling in places. The idea that there's almost nowhere on Earth you can escape human noises is slightly terrifying to me.