International news

Noise pollution affects pollination and chances of seed germination


A study on the effects of noise pollution from natural gas wells in the US reveals that it may have reduced the number of young trees growing locally by changing the types of animals that visit the area. However, in the same woodland environment, flowering plants pollinated by hummingbirds seem to benefit from the noise.

Noise pollution caused by traffic and machinery is recognised as a significant human health problem, with noise levels likely to increase in the future. Effects on specific species of animals and plants are also known, but our understanding of the wider effects of noise on ecosystems and biodiversity is limited. While some species avoid noisy areas, possibly because noise interferes with communication or their ability to find prey, others may seek refuge in noisy areas because there is a lack of predators or competing species.
The researchers compared pollinating and seed foraging behaviour – as well as the number of new seedlings – at noisy and quiet sites in an area of New Mexico, USA. The study area contains woodland, composed largely of piñon (a type of pine) and juniper trees, and natural gas wells are spread throughout. Some wells have noisy compressors that run constantly at around 95 dB(A), which were used as ‘noisy’ sites. Wells without compressors were used as ‘quiet’ sites.

The results demonstrate that the effects of noise within a given habitat can be complex. The researchers found four times as many piñon seedlings growing at quiet sites compared to noisy sites. However, the reasons behind this difference were unclear.
Seed scattering experiments and observations suggest that the noise had changed the community of animals that collect, store and eat seeds in these areas. For instance, they saw more deer mice at the noisy sites, and collections of seeds by western scrub-jays were only found at the quiet sites. As the mice eat most of the seeds they collect – either immediately or after hoarding them – their increased presence at noisy sites may have reduced the number of piñon seeds that germinate. Scrub-jays also hoard seeds, although many are not eaten, so can germinate to produce seedlings.
On the other hand, pollination of flowering plants by hummingbirds appeared to increased in noisy areas. The researchers created patches of artificial flowers, designed to mimic scarlet gilia, filled with a sugary solution to attract black-chinned hummingbirds and different coloured fluorescent powders to trace how the birds transferred pollen between flowers. The birds visited noisy flower patches more often, and pollination within and between noisy patches was more common. The results are supported by other research suggesting that black-chinned hummingbirds are more likely to visit and nest in noisy areas.
In the EU, environmental noise pollution is monitored and controlled by Member States under the Environmental Noise Directive1. Although the focus of noise mitigation is on reducing human health impacts, changes to noise levels also have important consequences for ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.

Source: Francis, C.D., Kleist, N.J., Ortega, C.P. and Cruz. A. (2012). Noise Pollution Alters Ecological Services: Enhanced Pollination and Disrupted Seed Dispersal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0230.


Theme(s):Biodiversity, Forests, Noise

Inter-Noise 2012 in New York City 19-22 August

INTER-NOISE 2012, the 41st International Congress and Exposition on Noise Control Engineering, will be held in New York City, USA, from 19-22 August 2012. The congress is being held in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Noise Control and Acoustics Division (ASME NCAD) annual meeting, is sponsored by the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering (I-INCE), and is being organized by the United States Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE-USA). The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and SAE International are also co-sponsoring the event.
The theme of the congress is Quieting the World's Cities, and we plan to hold special workshops highlighting city noise codes, and the New York City noise code in particular.

Press Release


04/04/12: for immediate use

Exchange 5

WHO launches expanded European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany.

One citizen out of five dies from environment-associated diseases in the WHO European Region. The Bonn office coordinates the collection and analysis of scientific evidence on exposure to environmental risks and health effects, to underpin policy-making.

See link: WHO

Environmental health inequalities in Europe. Assessment report

The unequal distribution of people’s exposure to – and potentially of disease resulting from – environmental conditions is strongly related to a range of sociodemographic determinants. Interventions to tackle such environmental health inequalities need to be based on an assessment of their magnitude and on the identification of population groups that are most exposed or most vulnerable to environmental risks.

WHO report released ultimo March. See link.

Frankfurt Campaigners win Night Flight Ban


I suspect this ruling has brought a Heathrow night flight ban a step closer

The campaigners at Frankfurt Airport have won a night flight ban after the German courts today ruled in their favour (1).  Flights will be banned from 11pm until 5am.  It is thought the ruling could have implications for night flights at other European airports.  Both Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol airports, where flights operate through the night, have been watching the ruling closely. 

The German decision could also influence the situation at Heathrow where the Government will begin consulting later this year on plans for a new night flight regime after the current agreement with the airlines runs out in 2014.  At present, no night flights are allowed at Heathrow between 11.30pm and about 4.15am but the Government is under pressure to introduce a ban from 11pm until 6am.

John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, which represents residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said: “This is a very significant ruling which could have implications for airports across Europe, including Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick.  Critically, the German court rejected arguments by Lufthanza that its business would be damaged by a night flight ban.  This is the same argument that has been made by BAA and British Airways to justify night flights at Heathrow.  I suspect this ruling has brought a Heathrow night flight ban a step closer”.

The night ban at Frankfurt is only one of the demands of the German protesters, thousands of whom occupy the airport terminal every Monday night (2).  They are objecting about the impact of the 4th runway which was opened in October.  The night flight ban will apply to all the airport’s runways.



Notes for Editors:


(1). For the full story:

(2). Pictures from the protest this week (Monday 2nd April):

For more information:

John Stewart 0207 737 6641; 07957385650

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