Assessing auditory masking for management of underwater anthropogenic noise

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2020

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Masking is often assessed by quantifying changes, due to increasing noise, to an animal’s communication or listening range. While the methods used to measure communication or listening ranges are functionally similar if used for vocalizations, they differ in their approaches: communication range is focused on the sender’s call, while the listening range is centered on the listener’s ability to perceive any signal. How these two methods differ in their use and output is important for management recommendations. Therefore it was investigated how these two methods may alter the conclusions of masking assessments based on Atlantic cod calls in the presence of a commercial air gun array. The two methods diverged with increasing distance from the masking noise source with maximum effects lasting longer between air gun pulses in terms of communication range than listening range. Reductions in the cod’s communication ranges were sensitive to fluctuations in the call’s source level. That instability was not observed for the listening range. Overall, changes to the cod’s communication range were more conservative but very sensitive to the call source level. A high level of confidence in the call is therefore required, while confidence in the receiver’s audiogram and soundscape is required for the listening range method.

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