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2023 | Effects of Invasive Species on the Soundscape

Microphone recording a stream

FACULTY SEED GRANT | Global Change Center

Acoustic Invasions: Exploring Effects of Invasive Species on the Soundscape of a Changing World


  • Dr. Meryl Mims, Biological Sciences
  • Dr. Jacob Barney, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
  • David Franusich, Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Biological invasions by introduced species are drivers of declines in biological diversity and degradation of ecosystem functioning and human health [1,2], and invasive species also come with high economic costs [3,4]. Although invasive species have become a major focus of research on global change [5,6,7], many of the potential pathways through which invasive species may affect ecosystems remain unexplored – particularly with regard to unseen dimensions of the landscape.

The soundscape, or sounds of a given landscape creating acoustical patterns through space and time [8], is increasingly recognized as a key dimension of biodiversity [9] and human perception of the landscape [10]. Though some research points to the direct biological effects of invasive species that vocalize, call, or generate sound [11], little is known or understood about how invasive species may indirectly affect soundscape. This includes invasive species such as plants that may indirectly modify the soundscape through physical alteration (e.g., curtains of invasive vines or stands of invasive grasses that dampen sound) or through species interactions (e.g., attracting or deterring species). Furthermore, developing a robust protocol for acoustic monitoring [12,13] may provide an added practical application for early detection of invasive species, particularly when visual detection may be untenable. As climate change shifts species distributions, early detection of native species loss or invasion by introduced species can be crucial to reducing ecological impacts.

In brief, our pilot study will place acoustic recorders along streams (e.g., VT’s StREAM Lab) and in forest habitats (e.g., VT’s Kentland Farm) with and without target invasive species, with sufficient replication for data exploration among habitats. We will monitor the soundscape for approximately one year, with daily recording intervals set to a frequency and duration sufficient to capture diurnal acoustic variation [14]. We will control for other factors as much as is feasible, including elevation, topography, and other known landscape and biological contributors to soundscape diversity. In evaluating the potential effects of invasive species, we will use statistical approaches that are appropriate for correlative methods and that aim to detect limiting factors in complex ecological datasets [14]. We will also build a network of external acoustic experts with interest in collaborating on a strong proposal with geographic scope beyond our existing study extent.

Reference citations for project proposal description available upon request.