Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ECOSOUND (Ecosystem mechanisms of noise impact on marine fauna)
Reporting period: 2015-05-10 to 2017-05-09
Currently, marine acoustic pollution is poorly regulated in Europe, despite growing evidence of a variety of impacts of noise on marine fauna. Initiatives to assess and regulate marine noise are arising from countries worlwide and, within EU, by the European Government and other international bodies such as OSPAR, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBAMS, all of which are suffering from the scarcity of scientific data upon which to base their decisions.
Based on the above, the objectives of ECOSOUND were:
i) To contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms of noise effects in the oceans by performing research on marine fauna from invertebrates to top-predators.
ii) To transfer the knowledge generated during the project to competent authorities and other interested stakeholders, including the public, in order to create awareness and provide scientific basis for management decisions to regulate underwater noise, classified as a pollutant of emergent concern.
iii) In addition to research objectives of ECOSOUND, this project is a Marie Slodowska Curie individual fellowship project. As such, one of its goals is to facilitate the awarded MSC fellow to attain a stable position in a European research entity, strengthening the network of excellent scientists in Europe.
The work of ECOSOUND has contributed to the recognition by national and international bodies that: i) noise can affect marine fauna from invertebrates to marine mammals, birds and reptiles; ii) mitigation measures are practical and should be implemented by nations, while working for standardization of measures across borders; iii) non-hearing physiological effects of noise are to be considered in regulations and guidelines for mitigation. While these issues are well known by the scientific community, they are still far from being implemented properly in management and conservation law both within and outside Europe. For example, the recently published Convention of Migratory Species baseline document on underwater noise only included the effects of noise on marine invertebrates because the fellow of ECOSOUND proposed and written this section. Similarly, the work of the fellow in national and international expert groups has contributed to the integration of the above information by competent bodies.
In addition to the work on noise effects, the fellow has advanced pure science in a number of issues, such as: i) population studies of cetaceans (dolphins, beaked whales and humpback whales) using mark-recapture and distance sampling methods based on photoID, and visual and acoustic detections. These have provided the first estimates of abundance of Cuvier´s and Blainville´s beaked whales, and of rough-toothed dolphins, in the NE Atlantic using photoID data and acoustic data. ii) biologging science: the fellow has used tag data to uncover the relation of the social cohesion of beaked whales while diving serves as an anti-predatory behaviour for beaked whales, with implications for the vulnerability of these species to sonar (the most accepted scientific explanation to the mortalities of beaked whales in relation to sonar is that beaked whales die as a result of behavioural responses to sonar as if sonar was interpreted as a predator cue by beaked whales) (Aguilar de Soto et al. submitted). Also, the fellow has supervised PhD students advancing the field of pilot whales communication (Marrero et al. 2016) and sperm whale foraging behaviour and population abundance (Fais et al. 2016a,b).