Forest is Calling

Forest with sun light coming from the side

Ring ring! It’s a call from… the forest?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

“If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody’s around, does it make a sound?” Let’s find out!

The forest called to Sarab Sethi [SAH-rahb SEH-thih] and colleagues from Imperial College in London! So they LISTENED!

To wit, the team recorded forest sounds using audio recorders powered by solar panels. With computers, they studied the audio, looking for patterns.

Turns out, forest sounds are distinct throughout the days and seasons. At five AM, the forest is LOUD with chirping birds! At night, crickets sing. As months go by, flapping wings arrive, and seasonal rains patter in your ears.

The researchers used this information to make an audio fingerprint for the forests!

This method also helped the team detect unusual sounds. For instance, gunshots and chainsaws indicate illegal human activities. This “sonic health monitor” can help us preserve and protect the environment so future generations can appreciate its wonders.

So listen carefully. A tree might be calling to you!

Reference: Sethi, S. S., Jones, N. S., Fulcher, B. D., Picinali, L., Clink, D. J., Klinck, H., Orme, C. D. L., Wrege, P. H., & Ewers, R. M. (2020). Characterizing soundscapes across diverse ecosystems using a universal acoustic feature set. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(29), 17049–17055.