Traffic Sounds Make It Harder for Birds to Think, Scientists Find
If you've ever had a hard time thinking when a noisy truck rattles by, you're not alone.
A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Wednesday found that traffic noises can impair the ability of songbirds to learn. In some cases, birds took twice as long to figure out new skills when listening to road sounds.
"While our expectation was that noise would reduce cognitive performance, I was a bit surprised by the extent of the effect we observed," study coauthor and Pacific University associate professor Christopher Templeton told i. "The degree to which simply hearing cars drive by impacted cognitive performance was really striking."
A growing body of research shows that noise pollution can have a major impact on non-human animals, BBC News reported. A study published in September 2020 found that the relative quiet of lockdown enabled male white-crowned sparrows in San Francisco to sing a higher quality song that was more attractive to females. Under the sea, shipping noises have been shown to stop humpback whales from singing. However, Wednesday's study was the first to show how noise pollution harms cognitive ability in animals, its authors told AFP.
To achieve their results, the researchers gave zebra finches a series of tasks that mimic the process of searching for food, BBC News explained. These included finding food beneath flipping lids designed to resemble leaves or figuring out how to access food in a cylinder. The researchers had the birds attempt the tasks without noise and also while a recording of traffic sounds played in the background. (The level of noise resembled road noise in a semi-rural area, AFP explained.)
They found that the background noise had a big impact on the birds' ability to complete the tasks.
"In some cases, we observed that it took animals more than twice as long to learn new skills when they heard road traffic played at natural sounds levels," Templeton told i. "For example, learning to remember the location of a hidden food reward took control birds about nine trials, but those exposed to traffic noise took on average 18 trials to learn the same task."
The birds' performance was also impaired on tasks that required them to control impulses, distinguish different colors and learn from each other. The only ability that was not impacted was their ability to link a color to a food reward.
"This has significant implications for how well they can get along in life," Templeton told AFP.
The zebra finch study was not the only research published this week that highlighted the dangers of road noise for wildlife. Another study published in Behavioral Ecology found that traffic noise impacted the mating success of the two-spotted cricket. Male crickets in this species sing by rubbing their wings together, and female crickets choose a mate based on the quality of their song. The researchers found that traffic and white noise lowered the crickets' mating success rate from 90 to 70 percent.
"Mate choice decisions can have strong implications on the success and viability of offspring," study lead author and University of Cambridge zoologist Adam Bent told AFP. "This could disrupt the evolution of this species."
Bent said there was not much research on the impact of noise on insects. His study adds more evidence that the sounds we make cause disruption across the animal kingdom.
"It's quite sad," Templeton told BBC News. "It's getting really, really difficult to find totally quiet environments not touched by human noise."
However, he said there were solutions, especially to the problem of traffic sounds.
"But we can change road surfaces, think about redesigning a vehicle's tyres. I think there's great scope for trying to reduce noise – we just have to be clever with our engineering," he said.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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