The song of species to understand climate change


To communicate, animals use songs, trills, chirps and various vocalizations. The analysis of these sounds emitted by birds, mammals, amphibians or insects has been a powerful tool for study in ecology and related sciences. An international team of researchers publishes in the journal Methods in ecology and evolution, a work in which they demonstrate how these sounds help to understand the effects of climate change on the behavior of animal species and therefore to improve conservation and mitigation measures. The results provide science with a new tool to identify possible changes in species phenology and distribution in the current context of climate change.

The team, made up of researchers from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH), the University of Seville and from the Federal University of Goiás (Brazil), combined the use of automatic sensors and voice recognition algorithms with mathematical models to develop a method to examine how the reproduction rates or ranges of species evolve and predict the long-term impact that climate change could have on their populations.


The song of the frog of San Antón

Species use acoustic communication to perform essential functions such as reproduction, defense of territories or search for food. “If changes in rainfall and temperature patterns alter the environmental conditions that allow these behaviors to take place, it is predicted that species may experience changes in their activity patterns, alter the areas they occupy and even see their survival compromised at the local or regional level.”contextualizes the UAM researcher, Diego Llusía

The proposed methodology was evaluated for the first time in a species native to the Iberian Peninsula, the San Antón frog, hyla molleriwhose individuals use song to find breeding mates. “The models developed gave rise to promising results, robustly predicting the vocal activity of this species according to climatic conditions”Lucia continues.

“The method we used thus offers the possibility of calculating what are the ecological requirements of the song of the species and, according to different future scenarios, of estimating the probability that the animals will find adequate conditions to exercise their vital functions throughout year round. the year, the territory or the seasons of the year.explains researcher Camille Desjonquères, also from UAM.

Bioacoustics and biogeography to predict the response of species to climate change

Various modeling techniques exist to predict the response of species to climate change, but they have certain limitations. The proposed method aims to provide a new source of information that improves our ability to understand the consequences of climate change, with a particular focus on animal behavior. To meet this challenge, the researchers proposed an unprecedented integration between two scientific disciplines: bioacoustics and biogeography.

“Bioacoustics offers a wide range of knowledge and techniques for tracking animal populations throughout their range through the use of arrays of acoustic sensors, small sound recorders that automatically record the song of the species . Subsequent analysis of the vast bank of recordings obtained with this equipment requires the use of recognition algorithms that automatically detect periods of vocal activity of the species.emphasizes MNCN researcher Rafael Marquez, head of the institution’s Fonoteca Zoológica (sound collection).

For its part, biogeography provides spatial modeling tools to understand how animals are affected by changes in climatic conditions. Growing concern about climate change and its effects on the planet requires improved study tools. Only in this way will it be possible to understand the impacts that these changes have on biodiversity and to better understand how the rhythms and dynamics of nature are modified.

Innovative research axis

This innovative line of research will be developed in the years to come by this team, an international pioneer in the field of bioacoustics. In any case, in order to mitigate the current environmental crisis, the most urgent thing is to put in place measures to mitigate these effects, with the application of decisive political actions and the awareness of citizens to reduce as soon as possible. our carbon emissions. the atmosphere.

Character font: MNCN SCCI

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