Sonic environment and vegetation structure: A methodological approach for a soundscape analysis of a Mediterranean maqui

TitleSonic environment and vegetation structure: A methodological approach for a soundscape analysis of a Mediterranean maqui
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsFarina, A., & Pieretti N.
JournalEcological InformaticsEcological Informatics
KeywordsAcoustic Complexity Index, birds, Mediterranean maqui, Sonotopes, Soundscape ecology, Soundtopes

Herein we present one of the first attempts to couple the complexity of vegetation and topographic features with the sonic environment to understand the distribution of bird species and individuals in their habitat. To achieve this, the sonic features of a bird community were studied during the spring and early summer of 2011 in a Mediterranean maqui located on the western slope of a remote hanging valley that is dominated by Erica arborea, Quercus ilex and Arbutus unedo. Species composition, height, vertical foliage profile, canopy density and dispersion of vegetation were utilized as probable proxies for the sonic patterns. The acoustic activity of birds was collected through the use of a regular matrix of 20 audio recorders, spaced 25m apart, which were placed following the topographic isoclines. The sonic complexity of the soundscape was evaluated using the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI), which is a recently developed metric. The PCA applied to the vegetation parameters revealed two principal distinguishing factors, which we were able to define as “vegetation density and structure” and “species segregation.” Moreover, the results show that, even in the case of sampling sites that are very close together, sonic patterns vary across the season, highlighting the great variability of the soundscape and confirming the adequacy of the sampling scale of 25m adopted in this study. The topographic features do not seem to be connected to the sonic environment. The main sonic complexity was found where the vegetation was taller and denser, especially where E. arborea was the dominant species. Although this proves that acoustic dynamics can be linked to vegetation structure, even on a small scale, a consistent element of sonic variability cannot be explained by vegetation patterns alone, and a soundtope hypothesis must be invoked.