Advancing the Interpretation of Shallow Water Marine Soundscapes Journal Article uri icon



  • Soundscapes offer rich descriptions of composite acoustic environments. Characterizing marine soundscapes simply through sound levels results in incomplete descriptions, limits the understanding of unique features, and impedes meaningful comparisons. Sources that contribute to sound level metrics shift in time and space with changes in biological patterns, physical forces, and human activity. The presence of a constant or chronic source is often interwoven with episodic sounds. Further, the presence and intensity of sources can influence other sources, calling for a more integrated approach to characterizing soundscapes. Here, we illustrate this complexity using data from a national-scale effort, the Sanctuary Soundscape Monitoring Project (SanctSound), an initiative designed to support collection of biological, environmental, and human use data to compliment the interpretation of sound level measurements. Using nine examples from this diverse dataset we demonstrate the benefit of integrating source identification and site features to interpret sound levels across a diversity of shallow water marine soundscapes (<150 m). Sound levels from sites in high human use areas reflect the anthropogenic influences on the soundscape, especially when measuring broad frequency bands, whereas sites with relatively low human activity and high sound levels reveal biological features of the soundscape. At sites with large tidal changes, sound levels correlated with the magnitude of tidal flow, and sound levels during high tidal flow periods were similar to sound levels at sites near commercial shipping lanes. At sites in relatively close proximity (<30 km), sound levels diverge because of the presence of different proximate sound contributors and propagation features of the site. A review of emerging methodologies for integrated soundscape analysis, including acoustic scenes, provides a framework for interpreting soundscapes across a variety of conditions. With a global growth in monitoring efforts collecting standardized measurements over widely distributed arrays, more integrated methods are needed to advance the utility of soundscapes in marine resource management.

publication date

  • September 30, 2021

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • July 5, 2022 11:59 AM

Full Author List

  • McKenna MF; Baumann-Pickering S; Kok ACM; Oestreich WK; Adams JD; Barkowski J; Fristrup KM; Goldbogen JA; Joseph J; Kim EB

author count

  • 22

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2296-7745

Additional Document Info


  • 8