Bernie Krause is a world-renowned American musician and ecologist. He has traveled the world recording and archiving the sounds of creatures and environments large and small. Bernie has shared a poignant video with us in response to the World Listening Day 2015 H2O theme. We follow up with an update in 2016 for World Listening Day: Sounds Lost and Found. This video shows the impact of the California drought on the biophony in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in the Mayacamas Mountain range that divides the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, about 60 miles north of San Francisco. The GPS coordinates are 38°26’20.05”N/122°29’56.06”W.
“The one-minute video illustrates changes due to climate change. The following is the text
describing what’s occurring:
Basically, this short example pertains to the California drought and shows the drought’s impact on the biophony in this area (about 50 miles north of San Francisco in a place called Sugarloaf State Park…a low elevation mountain range that is the border between Napa and Sonoma Valley). This year – because of the drought – we experienced what was virtually a silent spring with no birdsong for the first time in living memory…even at what would have normally been the height of the season in mid-April…an unfortunate outcome of Rachel Carson’s prediction more than 50 years ago. What is most remarkable and weird is that nobody seemed to notice the incredible silence this year.
The video is comprised of four 15-second examples – one minute total. It powerfully illustrates how the issues of climate change and the drought have progressed in one location over the past 11 years. The first segment was recorded in 2004. The second in 2009 (five years later). Again, in 2014, and the last in 2015. The recordings were made in exactly the same spot, mid April, and with carefully calibrated and repeatable settings, same protocol, same equipment. The lower half of the spectrogram shows the signature of a nearby stream that was flowing almost normally in 2004 and 2009. The upper half is filled with several different species of birds (note how the species present in that habitat have found frequency bandwidth above that of the stream signatures). The 2004 recording was similar to the density and diversity of the previous 10 years at the same spot. In the 2009 segment, however, the bird vocalization density has dropped off a bit probably due to the spring season occurring 2 weeks earlier on average, now. But the stream is still flowing. In the 2014 segment, however, everything has changed. Three years into the most serious drought in 1200 years, the stream was no longer flowing and the bird density and diversity has dropped off to very low levels. This year shows something even more interesting; the avian diversity has shifted with new species occupying acoustic niches that the stream signatures once occupied, with several of the other species no longer present in any numbers. This confirms an earlier prediction posited in the niche hypothesis, the operation of which is predicated on vocal organisms finding unoccupied acoustic bandwidth within which to generate sound.”
Bernie Krause, World Listening Day 2015-16