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Infrasound & marine mammals

Subject: Infrasound & marine mammals
From: Dave Mellinger <>
Date: Mon, 05 Apr 2004 09:13:23 -0700
 Dear bioacoustics list,
 I'd like to forward following compilation of answers to the question:
 Are there any indications giving reasons for assuming that smaller marine 
 could be sensitive to infrasonic noise?
 from Klaus-Richard Sperling <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>, sent to the list a few weeks 
 Thanks a lot for your responses!
 Ursula Verfuss
 Thank you to all of the responders of my inquiry. Herewith, I wish to send out 
 kind of  resume and some comments. Hoping for Your interest I remain 
 Y. S. Klaus-Richard Sperling 
 RESPONSE: The following colleagues had responded: 
  * Klaus Lucke ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) has sent a large collection of  literature 
 related issues. Some of the papers indicate that porpoises are sensitive to 
 frequency (however, not necessarily infrasound) noise. 
 * Lindy Weilgart ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) wrote me, that to her knowledge no 
 exists in the literature which could give proof for the sensitivity of harbour 
 porpoises to infrasound. Large whales are, indeed, sensitive, but it is 
 whether or not that is true for the smaller ones. She puts, however some 
emphasis to 
 the fact that "hearing" and perception is not the same thing. She gave me the 
paper of 
  S. Koschinski et. al. "Behavioural reactions of free-ranging porpoises and 
seals to 
 the noise of a simulated 2 MW windpower generator" in: Marine Ecology Progress 
 vol. 265; 263-273 [2003], There the behaviour of free living porpoises to the 
noise of 
 a windmill played from a CD-recorder is described. They say: "... harbour 
 and harbour seals are able to detect the low frequency sound generated by 
 wind turbines." and: "... certain sounds will be perceivable to harbour seals 
 harbour porpoises at 10s or even 100s of kilometres from the constructio!
  n site ...". 
 * Michael L. Fine ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) sent his paper on acoustic communication 
 freshwater gobies and pointed at the arguments therein. In his understanding 
they are 
 also applicable for shallow marine waters. He expects that infrasound will not 
be a 
 * Christine Erbe ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) pointed out that infrasonic noise may not 
 audible but, nonetheless, perceivable. She expressed doubts that windmills 
 produce such energetic infrasound that acute injuries must be expected. 
 * Magnus Wahlberg ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) has sent one of his papers 
 "Fish may hear and react to sounds from offshore windmills" in prep.). It 
 investigations on three windparks in Sweden. He reviews measurements of 
windmill noise 
 in Sweden and concludes that there is no evidence for the levels being high 
enough to 
 cause physiological damages in fish, but for reactions even over long 
distances. He 
 says that his conclusions should be interpreted with great care as the 
existing data 
 is prone to significant incertainties. 
 * Friedrich Ladich ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) gave me the following literature hints: 
 Karlsen H. E. [1992] "Infrasound sensitivity in the plaice (Pleuronectes 
platessa) J. 
 Exp. Biol. 171, 173-187;  ii) Karlsen H. E. [1992]: "The inner ear is 
responsible for 
 detection of infrasound in the perch (Perca fluvialis) J. Exp. Zool. 171; 
 iii) Sand O.. and Karlsen H. E. "Detection of infrasound and linear 
acceleration in 
 fishes" [2000] 355 1295-1298; iiii) Sand O. and Karlsen H. E. "Detection of 
 by the Atlantic cod" J. Exp. Biol. 1986; 125, 197-204. These papers show that 
 small) fishes are, indeed, sensitive to infrasonic sound. 
 * Oluf Damsgaard Henriksen ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) confirmed that the literature 
does not 
 give definitive answers, yet, to the question whether or not small marine 
mammals are 
 sensitive to infrasonic noise. Interesting to me was that he wrote about 
 investigations on the reaction of harbour porpoises and harbour seals to wind 
 noise. Indeed, they react. However, it is still to be clarified.which parts of 
 whole sound spectrum are responsible for the reactions. The   investigations 
 were made in Danmark. - Oluf  Damsgaard Henriksen is also one of the authors 
 (Tougaard,J.,Carstensen, J.,Henriksen,O.D.,Skov,H.. and Teimann,J. [2003] ) of 
 Technical Report to Techwise A/S HME/362-02662, Hedeselskabet,Roskilde called 
 "Short-term effects of the construction of wind turbines on harbour porpoises 
at Horns 
 Reef". In that report the authors describe changes in abundance and behaviour 
 porpoises at a distance of 10 - 15 kilometres from a place at which windpower 
  nopiles were rammed into the seabed. 
 * One further colleague commented but asked for secrecy. So I can merely 
respond to 
 his arguments in an abstract form here. 
 CONCLUSIONS: Which conclusions are to be drawn from the contributions 
mentioned above? 
 - I propose the following: 
 1) There are no hard facts giving either evidence for the sensitivity or for 
 insensitivity of harbour porpoises to infrasonic noise. 
 2) There are, however, some weak indications that they could be sensitive. The 
 that they react to ramming activities in a distance of 10 - 15 kilometres 
should be 
 considered in context with investigations showing that high frequency noise is 
 more absorbed by seawater than deep frequency noise, infrasonic noise, in 
 (i.e. Dietrich et al. Allgemeine Meereskunde; Gebrueder Borntraeger Verlag, 
 1975; Wille et. al. (1986) "Measurements of wind dependent acoustic 
transmission loss 
 in shallow water under breaking wave conditions" International congress on 
 S. 501 - 508 ). - Monopile ramming is, indeed, very noisy, but due to 
absorption after 
 10 - 15 km only the low frequency parts of the whole spectrum will remain with 
 remarkable strength. - In that same context the above-mentioned paper of 
Wahlberg and 
 Westerberg is to be read: "Windmills are expected to be detectable by fish at 
 ranges of 0,4 - 25 kilometres at wind speeds from 8 - 13 m/s!
  ". Thereby it remains unclear, which parts of the whole frequency spectrum 
 responsible for the relevant reactions. Nonetheless, considering again the 
fact that 
 the high frequency noise is rapidly absorbed the results can be taken as a 
hint which 
 suggests that deep frequency or even infrasonic noise is responsible and that, 
 this issue must not be neglected. 
 3) The common opinion that large whales only are specialists for deep 
frequency noise 
 and that all the smaller organisms are unable to hear and, thus, to react to 
 infrasonic noise is obviously not true. As cited above, some fishes, 
definitely do 
 react. In that context also the paper of A. Beulig [ A. Beulig (1982) "Social 
 experimental facts in the responsiveness of sharks to sound" Fl.Sci 45(1): 
2-10] is of 
 interest as it gives evidence for the reaction of sharks to infrasonic noise. 
 4) In the light of the insufficient state of knowledge, on the one hand, and 
of the 
 fact that large parts of the German Bight will be covered with wind parks 
 amongst others will produce infrasonic noise, on the other hand, further 
 investigations seem to be necessary. 
 5) Because of the large size, the large number and the high density of 
windparks in 
 the German Bight one has to take a particularly precautious position to the 
 effects, which means that not only the production of noise should be 
minimized, but 
 also the production of infrasonic noise. Harsh measures are inadequate. But 
 possibility that infrasonic noise may have adverse effects to the marine 
 should not be neglected. Technological standards should, therefore, be 
 reflecting, at least, moderate efforts to minimize the "contamination of the 
sea" by 
 infrasonic noise. 
 RAMMING: Some considerations should be given to ramming: Although ramming 
produces far 
 more noise than the windmills in action the latter deserve much more 
attention. Reason 
 is that possible adverse effects seem to be limited in space and time in the 
case of  
 ramming. In the case of the windmills, however, we would have permanent 
effects. Over 
 and above, such effects would - after construction of all windparks planned - 
 thousandfold. - Although the windmills in action require more attention the 
 effects of ramming should not be neglected. As far as I understand the 
 measures are under discussion: 
 I)   Preference for tripods to monopiles: Ramming of monopiles is much more 
 Tripods must only be anchored by three comparably small stakes. 
 II)  An air bubble curtain: It is said to absorb noise to a considerable 
 III) Installation of pingers to scare away porpoises before ramming 
 IV) A ramming up phase before actual ramming, which means that ramming is 
started with 
 very low and slowly increasing intensity in order to give animals in the 
 a chance to escape. 
 All the methods are discussed in context with marine mammals. If possible, 
 other animals should also be protected. I personally feel that we are still in 
 discussion phase. The applicants seem to be willing to use such methods if 
 ecological benefit is obvious and their application constitutes a 
technological state 
 of the art. That is, however, not the case yet. 
 That's it. Many thanks! 
 K. - R. Sperling 

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