Noise disrupts plant life

Photo credit:Thomas licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Some of you may be aware that decades ago, an Indian scientist reported that music helped certain plants grow but this area of research remains controversial. Other researchers think those who play music to their plants actually give them more care, and that explains the association between music and better plant growth.

We have indoor and outdoor plants. We don’t play music for them. They seem to do just fine.

In nature, though, the situation may be different when the noise isn’t music but 100 decibel noise from compressors associated with gas wells. The compressors run continuously, putting out 100 decibels day and night. In New Mexico, the noise is loud enough to disrupt the feeding habits of scrub jays, which bury pinyon pine seeds for future use but forget where they planted some of them, helping replant the forest.

When researchers went back to study areas mapped out a decade ago, the areas near compressors had fewer young pinyon trees. The researchers postulate that the birds didn’t like the noise, didn’t feed near the compressors, and that led to fewer seeds being absentmindedly planted.

The noise didn’t seem to bother hummingbirds.

The study is yet another reminder that plants, animals, and humans are intimately connected in complex ways that we don’t understand, and that our anthropogenic noise can disrupt nature.

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