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Sounds seen as ecology study tool

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher says a new scientific field will use sound to understand a landscape's ecology and reconnect people with the importance of natural sounds.

Bryan Pijanowski, a Purdue University professor of forestry and natural resources, says so-called soundscape ecology will focus on what sounds can tell people about an area, a university release reported Tuesday.

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Natural sound could be used like a canary in a coal mine, he says, acting as a critical first indicator of environmental changes.

Sound could be used to detect early changes in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape, he says.

"The dawn and dusk choruses of birds are very characteristic of a location," Pijanowski says. "If the intensity or patterns of these choruses change, there is likely something causing that change."

"Ecologists have ignored how sound that emanates from an area can help determine what's happening to the ecosystem."

Pijanowski has already begun some soundscape ecology work in various natural and human-dominated landscapes around Indiana, making more than 35,000 recordings to characterize the rhythms of the natural sound and how varying degrees of human development affect those rhythms.

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"As we continue to become more and more urban, we get used to the urban sounds which are mostly just noise. We're so used to blocking out noise that we block out the natural sounds as well," he says.

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