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Long-term noise pollution affects seedling recruitment, community composition, and negative effects persist after removal

Citation

Phillips, Jennifer; Termondt, Sarah; Francis, Clinton (2021), Long-term noise pollution affects seedling recruitment, community composition, and negative effects persist after removal, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k98sf7m5v

Abstract

Noise pollution can affect species’ behaviors and distributions and may hold significant consequences for natural communities. While several studies have researched short-term effects of noise, no long-term research has examined whether observed patterns persist or if community recovery can occur. We utilized a long-term study system in New Mexico to examine the effects of continuous natural gas well noise exposure on seedling recruitment of foundational tree species (Pinus edulis, Juniperus osteosperma) and vegetation diversity. First, we examined seedling recruitment and vegetation diversity at plots where current noise levels have persisted for > 15 years. We then examined recruitment and diversity on plots where noise sources were recently removed or added. We found support for long-term negative effects of noise on tree seedling recruitment, evenness of woody plants, and increasingly dissimilar vegetation communities with differences in noise levels. Furthermore, seedling recruitment and plant community composition did not recover following noise removal, possibly due in part to a lag in recovery among animals that disperse and pollinate plants. Our results add to the limited evidence that noise has cascading ecological effects. Moreover, these effects may be long-lasting and noise removal may not lead to immediate recovery.