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Man-made noise can affect plants, as well as animals

A new study concludes that noise from humans can have an effect on plant life, in addition to wildlife.

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Mounting evidence shows that noise from traffic, oil drilling, Navy sonar and other technology can make nearby animals scatter or change their behavior it.

New research takes a broader perspective and asks: How does noise affect natural communities? The results indicate that noise has the potential to trigger cascading effects that could alter the structure of these communities, known as ecosystems.

In nature, it's unusual for one factor to change in isolation; a change in one animal's behavior, for example, will likely have ripple effects on whatever it eats and whatever eats it.

To see what was happening further down the line, researchers looked at pollination and seedling establishment of plants growing near natural gas wells in Rattlesnake Canyon Habitat Management Area in northwestern New Mexico

Compressors running nonstop at the wells generate a droning roar, which at the study sites could be compared with the sound of a lower-pitched vacuum cleaner several feet away, said lead researcher Clinton Francis, postdoctoral fellow at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina.

The researchers compared these sites to others located farther away, where noise consisted of an occasional bird call or, more rarely, a distant plane or car, Francis told LiveScience in an email. [Shhh! 10 Ways to Quiet National Parks]

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