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Volume 26
Number 3
Winter 2009-2010
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Spectrogram of national park sounds. Feature
Measuring and monitoring soundscapes in the national parks

By Kurt Fristrup, Damon Joyce, and Emma Lynch
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Basic sound monitoring with a PDA
Greater sophistication in monitoring
Visual analysis of acoustic data
About the authors
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ATTENTIVE LISTENING IS AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE , and in national park settings it can amplify visitor awareness of resources and their value. Noise disrupts this experience. Accordingly, the sounds of a park unit and superb conditions for hearing them are signatures of park integrity and authenticity. Quiet environments encourage relaxation, observation, learning, and contemplation. For indoor settings, these values are expressed in the protective architectural noise standards that apply to libraries, classrooms, concert venues, and churches (American National Standards Institute, Standard S12.2). In protected natural areas, noise-free environments also provide outstanding opportunities to perceive and identify the sounds of nature, encouraging visitors to expand their auditory as well as visual horizons. The compelling benefits of natural quiet for park visitors reinforce the importance of noise management for preserving and restoring ecological integrity. Acoustical communication is vital for many species, and hearing alerts animals to nearby events, even when they are sleeping.

Acoustic monitoring is essential for managing noise, and it is a powerful tool to document patterns of wildlife activity and visitor use. Many animals reveal their presence and advertise their behavior using sound. Unattended recording is noninvasive: weeks of data can be obtained with minimal human presence and instrument footprint, and animals do not have to be captured or tagged. Audio recordings can chronicle changes in wildlife behavior in response to visitor use or revised management practices. Acoustic monitoring is an efficient way to track almost any form of traffic: hikers, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, boats, automobiles (and their types), and aircraft. Finally, acoustic monitoring can identify sources of noise and document daily and seasonal patterns in ambient sound levels.

Audio recordings can chronicle changes in wildlife behavior in response to visitor use or revised management practices.

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This page updated:  29 December 2009

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From the Guest Editor(s)
Comments and Corrections
At Your Service
Information Crossfile
Science Notes
Field Moment
Meetings of Interest
Masthead Information
From landscapes to soundscapes: Introduction to the special issue
  Measuring and monitoring soundscapes in the national parks
Integrating soundscapes into National Park Service planning
Excerpt from Governors Island General Management Plan
Conserving the wild life therein--Protecting park fauna from anthropogenic noise
Soundscapes monitoring and an overflight advisory group: Informing real-time management decisions at Denali
Soundscape management at Grand Canyon National Park
Tools of the trade: An example of using spectrograms to count fixed-wing aircraft
Visually impaired students help collect acoustic data in Grand Canyon National Park
Protecting the acoustic conditions at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Generator noise along the U.S.-Mexico border
Airport expansion adjacent to San Antonio Missions
A program of research to support management of visitor-caused noise at Muir Woods National Monument
Modeling and mapping hikers’ exposure to transportation noise in Rocky Mountain National Park
Aircraft overflights at national parks: Conflict and its potential resolution
Managing the natural soundscape: The National Park Service as a learning organization
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