Decision Makers Effects of Sound Tutorial Introduction

Potential effects of sound on marine animals

How can anthropogenic (man-made) sound affect marine animals? Much attention has recently been focused on anthropogenic sources of sound in the ocean and their potentially harmful effects. Many factors determine whether a sound may impact any marine animal:

  • sound characteristics, such as level, frequency, and duration;
  • animal-dependent features, such as hearing sensitivity, age, sex, and behavioral context; and
  • ambient conditions under which the animals are exposed to the sound.

Scientists suggest that increased background noise and specific sound sources might impact marine animals in several ways. The potential impacts include sounds that alter behavior, mask or make it difficult to distinguish important sounds, cause hearing loss (temporary or permanent), and/or damage tissues.

This tutorial is designed for a decision maker to get the basics of how sound might impact marine animals. The user can proceed from one topic to the next in sequence or jump to a topics of special interest. The DOSITS website contains additional content that may be of particular interest in the Animals and Sound Section as well as the Science of Sound Section.

The following sections discuss these effects based on findings reported in peer-reviewed scientific literature. DOSITS has a list of suggested references for animals and sound. All the tutorial pages have complete reference lists for each page.

Marine Mammals