Written by Stephen Messenger
Aside from a gentle rustling in the breeze or the occasional creaking bough, trees are generally nature’s strong and silent types — and as it turns out, they’d probably prefer us to keep the noise to a minimum too. According to some rather surprising results of a new study on the effects of excessive industrial ruckus on flora, even plants are apparently feeling the squeeze from human-generated noise pollution.
Researchers from North Carolina’s National Evolutionary Synthesis Center recently discovered that, despite an absence of ears, plant life cycles are being negatively impacted by persistent loud noises in their neighborhoods, reports the BBC. The team set their sights (and sounds) on a patch of New Mexico forest home to a number of clamorous gas wells and soon learned that the noise pollution made it harder for trees to have sex — because it deterred their reproductive assistants: pollinators.
Hummingbirds in particular, it seems, generally prefer to take their meals away from the hum of industrial machinery. But while it’s hard to blame them for that, it does make it difficult for trees to get together, so to speak.
And the trouble for plants in noisy regions doesn’t end there. Researchers also found that many animals which usually consume and later deposite seeds elsewhere weren’t coming around quite as much to help disperse the tree’s offspring. That’s a serious problem says lead-researcher Clinton Francis:
“Fewer seedlings in noisy areas might eventually mean fewer mature trees, but because pinon pines are so slow-growing the shift could have gone undetected for years. Fewer pinon pine trees would mean less critical habitat for the hundreds of species that depend on them for survival.”
Unfortunately, given the endless expansion of human activity in formerly tranquil ecosystems, silence is likely to be harder to come by in the future for nearly everyone and everything — and it may be a more difficult problem to curb.
This post was originally published by TreeHugger.
Photo from fatniu via flickr