Polar Soundscaping

What is a soundscape?

A Soundscape is the composition of the manifold sound sources that arrive at a particular location. Altogether, natural, biological and anthrogenic sounds shape the local acoustic environment.

Natural ambient ('geophonic') sounds include wind, waves and ice movement, biological ('biophonic') sounds are emitted by sound-producing species and man-made('anthophonic') sounds emanate from human activies, such as shipping, oil and gas exploration or underwater construction work.


Our research on polar marine soundscapes bases on the following questions:

  • Which marine mammal species inhabit the polar oceans temporaly or permanently?
  • How does the acoustic biodiversity of marine polar habitats change with time and space and how does it relate to other environement and ecological factors?
  • How do natural andanthropogenic sounds contribute to the overall acoustic enviroment of an area?
  • Which role does the character and quality of (local) acoustic habitat play for marine mammal habitat preferences?

Long-term spectrogram showing a three-year recording from 69S 0W, showing the repeating pattern of seasonal presences of Antarctic minke whales, fin whales, leopard seals and Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). Ambient sound levels were strongly affected by the annual variation of the sea-ice cover, which decouples local wind speed and sound levels during austral winter.