Mapping the spatio-temporal distribution of underwater noise in Irish Waters

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Resource or Project Abstract

Anthropogenic noise is considered an acoustic pollutant, and in recent years, noise from human activities such as shipping, seismic surveys, seabed drilling, and sonar has increased significantly in the Irish marine environment. Impacts on marine biota range from death due to physical injury and auditory damage, to behavioural and habitat use changes. Sound waves travel very quickly in water and effects of noise on marine mammals have been detected up to tens of kilometres from noise sources.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims at achieving or maintaining Good Environmental Status (GEnS) by 2020, with Descriptor 11 (Noise), taken to mean ?anthropogenic sound that has the potential to cause negative impacts on the marine environment?. This research provides the first verifiable quantification and visualisation of the spatio-temporal distribution of underwater noise to be published for Irish waters necessary for the development of indicators 11.1 and 11.2 specified in the MSFD.

Multiple data sets capturing the key physical environmental variables were combined with information on anthropogenic noise sources such as shipping and seismic surveying in the Quonops© modeling framework. This approach employed advanced sound propagation algorithms and statistical techniques to generate robust estimates of the spatio-temporal distribution of noise levels generated by human activities in Irish waters. Regional validation of the modeled noise fields was performed using field data from an acoustic monitoring array deployed outside Cork Harbour.

The results of the noise propagation modeling showed that continuous sound from ship traffic noise can spread over very large areas, well beyond the standard navigation routes. Acoustic monitoring outside Cork harbor highlighted the importance of duty-cycle and duration of monitoring in capturing the variability in anthropogenic noise. The overall conclusion is that a monitoring programme should employ a short duty cycle but over a longer period. This is an important consideration in the context of capturing the diversity of environmental variables that contribute to the sound-scape for a given location. A low duty cycle is also likely to have low power consumption and volumes of data, making it compatible with real-time data transfer for monitoring purposes.

The noise ?footprints? from seismic activity are very dependent on the location and season of the survey. In general, the footprint from seismic surveys tend to be much larger in deep water where the ambient sound field is relatively quiet. Risks to marine mammals associated with single shots are localized to the source itself, however cumulative risks associated with repetition of shots generates very large areas of potential risk. While the ?bang days? approach is simple to implement, its appropriateness is questionable given that cumulative noise footprints are much larger and more variable than the current grid used to report ?bang-days?. The overlap of ?cumulative noise risk? and marine mammal distribution in Irish waters highlighted the potential for large overlap, with risk of temporary hearing damage encompassing marine mammal hotspots. Therefore, dedicated prediction of noise footprint and biological risks should be mandatory in any EIA for seismic survey activities

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Contact Information for This Resource

Gerry Sutton
Coastal & Marine Research Centre

Dr. Mark Jessopp
University College Cork

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att: 1    STRIVE_121_-_Summary_of_Findings_MSFD_Noise.pdf  (0.28 Mb)
Att 2    EPA_Strive_121__GSutton_FINAL_2014.pdf   (4.8 Mb)
Att 3    STRIVE_121_thumb.jpg   (0.02 Mb)
Att 4    EPA_Strive_121__GSutton_FINAL_2014.pdf   (7.68 Mb)

Suggested Citation Information

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Author(s)Sutton, G. Jessopp, M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationMapping the spatio-temporal distribution of underwater noise in Irish Waters
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifierc5afaeb4-2ced-11e3-8c2d-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-21

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Sutton, G. Jessopp, M.   "Mapping the spatio-temporal distribution of underwater noise in Irish Waters". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-21)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsMSFD, Descriptor 11, Noise, propagation, Quonops
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2011-W-MS-7
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this Resource
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 4
Project Start Date Wednesday 1st February 2012 (01-02-2012)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 1st February 2012 (01-02-2012)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st October 2013 (01-10-2013)
Published on SAFERFriday 4th October 2013 (04-10-2013)
Date of Last EditFriday 4th July 2014 at 13:42:38 (04-07-2014)
Datasets or Files Updated On Wednesday 26th February 2014 at 10:35:33 (26-02-2014)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Marine waters including Irish Exclusive Economic Zone and Designated Irish continental shelf area. Specific calibration data collected usiing hydrophones deployed outside Cork harbor, south coast of Ireland.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) adopted in July 2008 aims at achieving or maintaining a Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020. Article 9 of the MSFD requires Member States to determine a set of characteristics for GES for their marine waters on the basis of eleven qualitative descriptors listed in Annex I. The Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on GES of marine waters states that research and technical progress is needed to support the further development of criteria in relation to Descriptor 11 (Noise) and its two indicators: 11.1 (impulsive loud, low and mid-frequency sounds) and 11.2 (continuous low frequency sounds).
Supplementary Information
Project used environmental data (bathymetry, sediment, wave height) and data on sources of anthropogenic noise (shipping, seismic surveying, construction) in the marine environment to model the propagation of noise in Irish waters to create a 'noise Atlas' for Irish waters as well as 'noise risk maps' for sensitive marine species, namely marine mammals.
Modelling was conducted using the proprietary Quonops system using a Monte Carlo statistical approach. Model outputs were calibrated using sound recordings from a hydrophone deployed outside Cork Harbour.
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