Anthropogenic Noise in the Alaskan Arctic

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As we study the phenomenon of climate change and its dramatic effects on environments worldwide, nowhere exists a clearer picture of the change than what is happening in the Arctic. As ice melts, erosion consumes coastal communities and Arctic tundra landscapes begin to disappear, it is critical to remember that these dramatic changes are not just visual but also audible. The continual shrinking of sea ice has allowed for an influx of actors operating in the Arctic Ocean who have transformed this once pristine soundscape into a noisy ocean. As the ice continues to melt and human activity in the Arctic increases, it is necessary to consider how these new anthropogenic stressors are affecting marine mammals and other ocean dwelling species that rely on the Arctic Ocean soundscape to meet their most basic needs such a foraging, mating, migrating and communicating with their young. The rise in anthropogenic noise in the Arctic due to increased shipping, offshore oil exploration and various other factors left unregulated arguably results in negative implications for marine mammals, and by extension, the indigenous inhabitants of the North Slope Borough of Alaska who survive as subsistence whalers. This project investigates the potential to limit anthropogenic Arctic Ocean noise in Alaska by 1) using species occurrence data to map anthropogenic noise threats as a planning tool to inform policy on the way anthropogenic noise is monitored and regulated and 2) considering how future anthropogenic noise law and policy regulations could be monitored through the use of geospatial technologies.
Spatial analyses, such as the initial one attempted here, are an ideal medium for understanding how anthropogenic changes in the Arctic Ocean soundscape could be impacting the species that live there and for communicating this problem to policymakers or other relevant stakeholders who have a responsibility to address the problem. As species, particularly pelagic species, continually adapt to ever-changing ice cover in the Arctic and as subarctic species continue to migrate farther north as water temperatures worldwide rise, being able to spatially capture their movements in relation to anthropogenic noise sources is critical in protecting them. These spatial data and analysis can then become management tools to inform anthropogenic noise law and policy so that much-needed regulation can be put in place. Compiling spatial data to show the possible reaches of harmful anthropogenic noise in a way that can easily be incorporated into already existing marine geospatial platforms and other existing management plans for the area will make it easier for law and policymakers to use the data, and to see how noise pollution fits into the greater regulatory framework for the ecosystems they are managing.





Nasgovitz, Megan (2017). Anthropogenic Noise in the Alaskan Arctic. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.