Noise from human activities is known to impact organisms in a variety of taxa, but most experimental studies on the behavioural effects of noise have focused on examining responses associated with the period of actual exposure. Unlike most pollutants, acoustic noise is generally short-lived, usually dissipating quickly after the source is turned off or leaves the area. In a series of experiments, we use established experimental paradigms to examine how fish behaviour and physiology are affected, both during short-term (2 min) exposure to playback of recordings of anthropogenic noise sources and in the immediate aftermath of noise exposure. We considered the anti-predator response and ventilation rate of juvenile European eels (Anguilla anguilla) and ventilation rate of juvenile European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). As previously found, additional-noise exposure decreased eel anti-predator responses, increased startle latency and increased ventilation rate relative to ambient-noise-exposed controls. Our results show for the first time that those effects quickly dissipated; eels showed rapid recovery of startle responses and startle latency, and rapid albeit incomplete recovery of ventilation rate in the 2 min after noise cessation. Seabass in both laboratory and open-water conditions showed an increased ventilation rate during playback of additional noise compared with ambient conditions. However, within 2 min of noise cessation, ventilation rate showed complete recovery to levels equivalent to ambient-exposed control individuals. Care should be taken in generalizing these rapid-recovery results, as individuals might have accrued other costs during noise exposure and other species might show different recovery times. Nonetheless, our results from two different fish species provide tentative cause for optimism with respect to recovery following short-duration noise exposure, and suggest that considering periods following noise exposures could be important for mitigation and management decisions.
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