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Does experimentally quieting traffic noise benefit people and birds?

Mitchell J Levenhagen, Boise State University
Zachary D Miller, Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, Utah State University; Ecology Center, Utah State University
Alissa R Petrelli, California Polytechnic State University
Lauren A Ferguson, University of New Hampshire
Yau-Huo (Jimmy) Shr, Department of Agricultural Economics, National Taiwan University
B. Derrick Taff, Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, Penn State University
Kurt M Fristrup, National Park Service
Christopher J.W. McClure, Boise State University;The Peregrine Fund
Shan Burson, National Park Service
Michael Giamellaro, Oregon State University-Cascades
Peter Newman, Penn State University
Clinton D Francis, California Polytechnic State University
Jesse R Barber, Boise State University


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Protected natural areas are not free from noise, especially noise generated by traffic within park boundaries. Natural soundscapes are important for maintaining community structure, providing positive visitor experiences, and increasing visitor support for management actions that reduce impacts on natural resources. To test experimental quieting as a strategy to increase both wildlife habitat quality and visitor experience, we enforced decreased speed limits and presented educational signage to reduce sound levels along a road system in an alternating, on–off block design within Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA. We continuously recorded background sound levels while conducting bird space use assessments and visitor-intercept surveys along the experimental corridor. Our mitigation approach lowered sound levels during sign-present weeks, yet there was no relationship between bird space use near roadways and traffic noise, perhaps due to the increased duration of noise exposure created by lower speed limits. There was, however, a relationship between visitor perception of birdsong diversity and background sound level. Critically, visitors preferred soundscape mitigation strategies limiting personal access in exchange for better experiences in natural soundscapes.

Key words

noise mitigation; protected areas; soundscape; speed limit reduction; traffic noise; visitor experience

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087