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Responses of cetAceans to natural and anthropogenIc Noise


In the marine environment, motorised vessels are now the most ubiquitous and pervasive anthropogenic noise source, and the evidence for deleterious impacts from this noise source on sensitive marine life, such as cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), is mounting. However, cetaceans have not evolved in silent or naturally quiet environments, and it may be hypothesised that animals have developed mechanisms to cope with naturally fluctuating noise levels. Regardless, studies have yet to investigate whether individual cetaceans perceive and respond to motorised vessel noise in the same way as acoustically similar and significant natural noises, such as rain, for which they have been exposed to over evolutionary timescales. In RAIN, I will, for the first time, compare the responses of harbour porpoises, a small odontocete cetacean, to both motorised vessels and rain noise. RAIN will (1) quantify the absolute contributions of rain and vessel noise to local marine soundscapes experienced by populations of harbour porpoises using long-term passive acoustic monitoring data; (2) assess and compare the behavioural and acoustic responses of individual harbour porpoises to these noise sources using state-of-the-art acoustic recording tags (DTAGs); and (3) investigate the effect of rain and vessel noise on individual echolocation performance as a proxy for foraging performance. Through RAIN, I will provide new insights into how harbour porpoises perceive and respond to natural and anthropogenic noises at population and individual scales, and identify, quantify, and compare potential coping mechanisms they employ to deal with these different noise sources. Results from RAIN will, in turn, providing evidence which will be used to directly inform the management of underwater noise levels and the protection of a key marine species in European marine waters.

Funding Scheme



Net EU contribution
€ 214 934,40
Nordre Ringgade 1
8000 Aarhus C

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Danmark Midtjylland Østjylland
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
No data