Seasonal Patterns in Ocean Ambient Noise near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories + Supplementary Appendix 1 (See Article Tools)
Keywords:marine acoustic environment, marine acoustic habitat, marine soundscape, passive acoustic monitoring, ambient noise, noise impact
Ocean ambient noise is a crucial habitat feature for marine animals because it represents the lower threshold of their acoustically active space. Ambient noise is affected by noise from both natural sources, like wind and ice, and anthropogenic sources, such as shipping and seismic surveys. During the ice-covered season, ambient conditions in the Arctic are quieter than those in other regions because sea ice has a dampening effect. Arctic warming induced by climate change can raise noise levels by reducing sea ice coverage and increasing human activity, and these changes may negatively affect several species of marine mammals and other acoustically sensitive marine fauna. We document ambient noise off the west coast of Banks Island near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories, to provide baseline noise levels for the eastern Beaufort Sea. Noise levels were comparable to those found in other studies of the Canadian Arctic and Alaska and were typically much lower than levels reported farther south. Stronger wind increased noise, whereas greater ice concentration decreased it, dampening the effect of wind speed. Future work should expand monitoring to other locations in the Arctic, model the impact of increased human activities on ambient noise levels, and predict the impact of these changing levels on marine animals.