Humans have altered the Earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity significantly. With the conversion of land and the loss of biodiversity, the world loses its natural sounds. The loss of natural sounds is compounded by the growing intrusions of motorized noise. Noise pollution is a ubiquitous problem in cities around the world, but the issue is spreading to more remote areas due to expanding transportation networks, motorized recreation and urban sprawl. The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) recognizes park soundscapes, or entire acoustic environment of a given area, as resources just as air and water are resources. However, national park resources are only provided protection within a legally defined boundary separating it from surrounding land uses. To better understand the acoustic resources and noise issues in parks, the U.S. NPS Natural Sounds Program sent a survey to each of the park units (n=391) in 2009. There were 149 respondents representing 141 different park units. We analyzed the data using qualitative theme identification and quantitative analyses. The primary noise impacts for parks were from motorized noise sources (n=97), and specifically road noise was reported by 36 respondents. Adjacent land uses were identified as causing specific impacts by 15 respondents. We demonstrate how Geographic Information Systems can be used to quantify the noise impacts from surrounding development mentioned by park respondents. We buffered urban land use of responding park units using ArcGIS. The total urban area of each park unit was compared to survey results to determine if urban area correlated to parks conducting noise mitigation measures. Respondents (n=14) mentioned adjacent land use planning as a measure that they were using to mitigate noise impacts. The research findings from this study will help guide future soundscape conservation efforts by NPS.


Soundscape, National Park Service, noise, natural sounds, conservation, land use, GIS



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