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Data from: Weather conditions determine attenuation and speed of sound: environmental limitations for monitoring and analysing bat echolocation

Citation

Goerlitz, Holger R. (2019), Data from: Weather conditions determine attenuation and speed of sound: environmental limitations for monitoring and analysing bat echolocation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k5d3280

Abstract

Echolocating bats are regularly studied to investigate auditory-guided behaviours and as important bioindicators. Bioacoustic monitoring methods based on echolocation calls are increasingly used for risk assessment and to ultimately inform conservation strategies for bats. As echolocation calls transmit through the air at the speed of sound, they undergo changes due to atmospheric and geometric attenuation. Both the speed of sound and atmospheric attenuation, however, are variable and determined by weather conditions, particularly temperature and relative humidity. Changing weather conditions thus cause variation in analysed call parameters, limiting our ability to detect and correctly analyse bat calls. Here, I use real-world weather data to exemplify the effect of varying weather conditions on the acoustic properties of air. I then present atmospheric attenuation and speed of sound for the global range of weather conditions and bat call frequencies to show their relative effects. Atmospheric attenuation is a non-linear function of call frequency, temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure. While atmospheric attenuation is strongly positively correlated with call frequency, it is also significantly influenced by temperature and relative humidity in a complex non-linear fashion. Variable weather conditions thus result in variable and unknown effects on the recorded call, affecting estimates of call frequency and intensity, particularly for high frequencies. Weather-induced variation in speed of sound reaches up to about ±3%, but is generally much smaller and only relevant for acoustic localisation methods of bats. The frequency- and weather-dependent variation in atmospheric attenuation has a three-fold effect on bioacoustic monitoring of bats: it limits our capability (1) to monitor bats equally across time, space, and species, (2) to correctly measure frequency parameters of bat echolocation calls, particularly for high-frequencies, and (3) to correctly identify bat species in species-rich assemblies or for sympatric species with similar call designs.

Usage Notes

Location

South Africa
Malaysia
Negev
Germany