Researchers have found that surprisingly, unlike previously thought, the lockdowns of 2020 and economic downturns from the COVID-19 pandemic did not reduce underwater sound levels.
Previous reports suggested that the soundscape of the Atlantic Ocean’s continental shelf saw a significant reduction. However, this now seems not to be the case.
The study was conducted at the University of New Hampshire, with the results published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America Express Letters. The scientists studied seven sites from Virginia to Florida where hydrophones were placed in 2017 and retrieved in 2021. While the study found that commercial shipping noise decreased, sound from vessels like pleasure craft and fishing boats increased, resulting in no net change in noise level.
According to Professor Jennifer Miksis-Olds, the director of UNH’s Center for Acoustic Research and Education:
“It’s fascinating that oceans are so dynamic and variable; different regions really have different personalities based on the natural and human interactions that happen within those waters…Having that long-term time series was really critical because it allowed for direct comparison of years of data before COVID-19 hit. Acoustic measurements in the deep ocean are more scarce than in coastal waters, so this research provides another perspective on how the deep oceans were impacted — or not — by COVID-19.”
You can find the original research here.