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Peace and quiet is becoming more elusive in U.S. wild areas

Human-made cacophony doubles volume of background noise in many places, study finds

By
2:00pm, May 4, 2017
Alcatraz Island

NOISE POLLUTION Alcatraz Island is a former prison now managed by the federal government as a protected natural area and historical site. Long-term audio recordings taken in places like this one are helping scientists understand just how much human noise affects natural places.

Even in the wilderness, humans are making a ruckus.

In 63 percent of America’s protected places — including parks, monuments and designated wilderness areas — sounds made by human activity are doubling the volume of background noise. And in 21 percent of protected places, this racket can make things 10 times noisier.  

Enough clatter from cars, planes and suburban sprawl is seeping into wild places to diminish animals’ ability to hear mating calls and approaching predators, a team of researchers based in Colorado reports in the May 5 Science. Human noise doesn’t always have to be loud to override natural sounds, though. Some places are so quiet to begin with that even the smallest amount of human noise can dominate, the researchers found.

“The world is changing, and protected areas are getting louder — the last strongholds of diversity

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