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The phantom chorus: birdsong boosts human well-being in protected areas

Citation

Francis, Clinton (2020), The phantom chorus: birdsong boosts human well-being in protected areas, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.wwpzgmsgx

Abstract

Spending time in nature is known to benefit human health and well-being, but evidence is mixed as to whether biodiversity or perceptions of biodiversity contribute to these benefits. Perhaps more importantly, little is known about the sensory modalities by which humans perceive biodiversity and obtain benefits from their interactions with nature. Here, we used a “phantom bird song chorus” consisting of hidden speakers to experimentally increase audible birdsong biodiversity during “on” and “off” (i.e., ambient conditions) blocks on two trails to study the role of audition in biodiversity perception and self-reported well-being among hikers. Hikers exposed to the phantom chorus reported higher levels of restorative effects compared to those that experienced ambient conditions on both trails; however, increased restorative effects were directly linked to the phantom chorus on one trail and indirectly linked to the phantom chorus on the other trail through perceptions of avian biodiversity. Our findings add to a growing body of evidence linking mental health to nature experiences and suggest that audition is an important modality by which natural environments confer restorative effects. Finally, our results suggest that maintaining or improving natural soundscapes within protected areas may be an important component to maximizing human experiences.

Methods

This study took place in Boulder Open-Space and Mountain Parks, Boulder, Colorado. Data collection included: visitor surveys, point counts of birds and acoustic recordings to capture ambient sound levels.

Usage Notes

Three datasets and associated ReadMe files are included in this submission:

1) Survey responses from hikers.

2) Data reflecting bird species richness without the phantom chorus, plus bird species richness with the inclusion of those used in the phantom chorus.

3) Hourly sound level data (L50, A-weighted dB). Ninty-two hourly sound level values from Gregory Canyon were removed from the original dataset because recording units had different settings, and thus were not directly comparable to the others.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: 1414171

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks

National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division