Ecoacoustics- A transformative tool for ecosystem characterisation

Dr. R. Jaishanker & Sajeev C Rajan
CV Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, School of Informatics, Digital University Kerala

The world around us is filled with sounds that originate from biotic and abiotic sources. Sound signature provides insights in to the various transactions of the living world. Since sounds from different habitats and ecosystems are a rich source of information, a comprehensive understanding of sound-organism interrelationships helps to elucidate the mechanism of ecosystem process and function. This has spawned a branch of ecology called Ecoacoustics.

Sajeev C Rajan collecting acoustic data in field.

Murray Schaffer, a Canadian musician in 1960 pioneered the ecoacoustic studies. Subsequent advances in this field have attracted ecologists and musicians from around the world to research in this area. Among the various transformative and technology-driven methods, acoustic monitoring is one of the viable and cost-effective tools for biodiversity assessment and conservation The potential research in the field includes the study and analysis of landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity assessment etc. Based on the approach, the ecoacoustic researches are classified into, soundscape level studies and species level studies. Soundscape level studies focuses on the relationship between biophony (sound of living organism), geophony (natural sounds like wind blowing running water etc.) and anthrophony (human made sound) of a particular environment. These are dynamic in nature and location-specific. In contrast, the species level studies use sound to examine a characteristic of a particular species.

Ecoacoustic research has a long tradition to claim, but it has been a demi decade since researches in India utilizing the potential of Ecoacoustics tools. There are endless possibilities for the use of ecoacoustic tools in India, with a rich biodiversity. In this context, the research contributions of School of Informatics (SoI), Digital University Kerala, deserves a special mention.

Of the various acoustic research carried out by SoI, attempt to represent the state of landscape by means of sonic characterization has been widely appreciated. It emphasizes that decoding the acoustic dynamics of a landscape can ingeniously be crafted as a rapid tool to assess biological diversity. Another study unveiled applicability of acoustic indices as surrogate to assess biodiversity after disasters. The study conducted at Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Kerala compared pre-flood, flood and post-flood acoustic signatures to illustrate their utility in assessing avian biodiversity. The temporal dynamics of acoustic indices captured the spectre of floods on avian diversity and its resurgence with time in the sanctuary.

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