Variation in harbour porpoise activity in response to seismic survey noise

Enrico Pirotta*, Kate L. Brookes, Isla M. Graham, Paul M. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Animals exposed to anthropogenic disturbance make trade-offs between perceived risk and the cost of leaving disturbed areas. Impact assessments tend to focus on overt behavioural responses leading to displacement, but trade-offs may also impact individual energy budgets through reduced foraging performance. Previous studies found no evidence for broad-scale displacement of harbour porpoises exposed to impulse noise from a 10 day two-dimensional seismic survey. Here, we used an array of passive acoustic loggers coupled with calibrated noise measurements to test whether the seismic survey influenced the activity patterns of porpoises remaining in the area. We showed that the probability of recording a buzz declined by 15% in the ensonified area and was positively related to distance from the source vessel. We also estimated received levels at the hydrophones and characterized the noise response curve. Our results demonstrate how environmental impact assessments can be developed to assess more subtle effects of noise disturbance on activity patterns and foraging efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20131090
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2014

Keywords

  • activity budget
  • anthropogenic disturbance
  • environmental impact assessment
  • foraging efficiency
  • bottle-nosed dolphins
  • behavioral-responses
  • human disturbance
  • life-history
  • echolocation
  • cetaceans
  • impacts
  • population
  • ecology
  • waters

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