Acoustic indices respond to specific marine mammal vocalizations and sources of anthropogenic noise

TitleAcoustic indices respond to specific marine mammal vocalizations and sources of anthropogenic noise
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsFerguson, EL, Clayton, HM, Sakai, T
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science

Using passive acoustic methods for biodiversity conservation and effective ecosystem monitoring is hindered by laborious, human-mediated processes of accurately identifying biologic and anthropogenic sounds within large datasets. Soundscape ecology provides a potential means of addressing this need through the use of automated acoustic-based biodiversity indices, which show promise in representing biodiversity in terrestrial environments. However, the direct relationship between specific underwater sounds and acoustic index measurements are largely unexplored. Using passive acoustic data collected from three broadband hydrophones within the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s cabled arrays in the Pacific northwest, we identified periods of vocalizing marine mammals and sources of anthropogenic noise. Automated calculations of seven acoustic indices were compared across biologic and anthropogenic sound type and call parameters. Although several index measurements did not vary significantly, the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI) measurements increased in response to echolocation clicks from sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and burst pulses originating from unidentified delphinid species. Measurements of the Bioacoustic Index (BI) decreased dramatically in response to sperm whale echolocation clicks, a more obvious trend when loud clicks were parsed from moderate and quiet clicks. Correlations coefficient and confidence interval values between ACI and BI measurements and call characteristics from sperm whales indicate a moderate to strong relationship, which was not found in correlations with delphinid calls. A generalized linear mixed-effect model indicated multiple species and sound types contribute significantly to the variation of several index measurements. Noise generated by passing ships consistently resulted in decreased values for the Normalized Difference Soundscape Index (NDSI) and Total Entropy (H) as compared to quiet periods and periods with vocalizing marine mammals. These findings provide information on the relationship between several acoustic indices and specific underwater sounds produced by marine mammals and anthropogenic sources. This ground-truthing endeavor expands the understanding of acoustic indices and their potential use as a tool for conservation and ecosystem health management purposes.