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Noise Pollution Problem Extends To Protected Natural Areas

First Posted: May 05, 2017 05:40 AM EDT
Big Bend National Park, TX
An RV camp sits within the Chisos Basin of the Big Bend National Park.
(Photo : John Moore/Getty Images)

In many parts of the United States, nights listening to crickets are fast becoming just nostalgic memories. In fact, past the city limits to the great outdoors, there has been less peace and more noise.

Science reported that noise pollution from humans have doubled in more than half of all the protected areas in the U.S. In fact, places ranging from local nature reserves to national parks have been known to have become 10 times louder, according to a study from the National Park Service and Colorado State University. Noise pollution such as honking cars and clanging equipment from construction can disturb animals and cause them stress.

The noise levels are not just bad for animals that rely on sounds to survive, but it can also be a danger to humans. Nathan Kelist, anecologist from the University of Colorado Boulder, noted that noise maps can help scientists identify areas that need to keep quiet, such as critical habitats for endangered species.

In 1972, U.S. officials signed the Noise Control Act, which granted the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to impose noise limits on vehicles and machinery as they deem fit. However, most of these imposed limits largely ignored noise in parks and protected areas that cover 14 percent of the country overall.

Rachel Buxton, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher from the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology in the Warner College of Natural Resources, said that it was surprising to find how prevalent noise has been, even in protected areas. She emphasized the danger of noise pollution, not only to wildlife but to humans as well.

Phys.org quoted Buxton as saying, "Protecting these important natural acoustic resources as development and land conversion progresses is critical if we want to preserve the character of protected areas."

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