Measuring acoustic habitats

Nathan D. Merchant, Kurt M. Fristrup, Mark P. Johnson, Peter L. Tyack, Matthew J. Witt, Philippe Blondel, Susan E. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

315 Citations (SciVal)
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1.Many organisms depend on sound for communication, predator/prey detection, and navigation. The acoustic environment can therefore play an important role in ecosystem dynamics and evolution. A growing number of studies are documenting acoustic habitats and their influences on animal development, behaviour, physiology, and spatial ecology, which has led to increasing demand for passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) expertise in the life sciences. However, as yet, there has been no synthesis of data processing methods for acoustic habitat monitoring, which presents an unnecessary obstacle to would-be PAM analysts.

2.Here, we review the signal processing techniques needed to produce calibrated measurements of terrestrial and aquatic acoustic habitats. We include a supplemental tutorial and template computer codes in MATLAB and R, which give detailed guidance on how to produce calibrated spectrograms and statistical analyses of sound levels. Key metrics and terminology for the characterisation of biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic sound are covered, and their application to relevant monitoring scenarios is illustrated through example datasets. To inform study design and hardware selection, we also include an up-to-date overview of terrestrial and aquatic PAM instruments.

3.Monitoring of acoustic habitats at large spatiotemporal scales is becoming possible through recent advances in PAM technology. This will enhance our understanding of the role of sound in the spatial ecology of acoustically sensitive species, and inform spatial planning to mitigate the rising influence of anthropogenic noise in these ecosystems. As we demonstrate in this work, progress in these areas will depend upon the application of consistent and appropriate PAM methodologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date23 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2015


  • passive acoustic monitoring
  • acoustic ecology
  • bioacoustics
  • ecoacoustics
  • sound-scape
  • ambient noise
  • anthropogenic noise
  • remote sensing
  • habitat monitoring


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