State of Play in Marine Soundscape Assessments

by Michelle Havlik, Milica Predragovic, Carlos Duarte
original article Year: 2022 DOI:


Havlik, M.N., Predragovic, M. and Duarte, C.M., State of Play In Marine Soundscape Assessments. Frontiers in Marine Science, p.1090


A soundscape is the recording of all sounds present in an area, creating a holistic view of the acoustic profile in an ecosystem. Studying acoustic parameters of marine soundscapes as a whole has been shown to give an indication of the health status of the location, as well as correlate to which species may be present and using the area. With the rapid innovation of technology, especially data storage and declining cost of equipment, marine soundscape research is fast increasing, and these previous limitations have been switched for computing capacity for data analysis. Here, we perform a systematic assessment of literature of marine soundscape studies, from 1978, when the first soundscape study was reported, until 2021. We identified 200 primary research studies that recorded soundscapes and captured their geographical location, depth, habitat, duration of the study, and number of sites in each study. Using this data, we summarize the state of play in marine soundscapes studies, and identify knowledge gaps in the spatial coverage, depth profiles, habitat representation and study duration. Spatially, studies are biased towards the northern hemisphere. They are also more prevalent in more easily accessible ecosystems, in order from most to least studied, in coastal (38%), pelagic (20%), tropical coral reef (17%), rocky reef (7%), polar (5.5%), seagrass meadows, oyster reef and kelp/algal forest (<5% each) areas, with zones of cold-water coral the least studied (0.3%). Continuing the trend of accessibility, studies also tended to focus on shallow ecosystems. Most recordings (68%) were conducted in the upper 50 m, with 13% in 50-200 m depths, and only 0.6% at a depth >4000 m. With anthropogenic noise and other pollution sources increasing globally, these gaps in research should be further addressed, especially as they pertain to vulnerable ecosystems, many of which are affected by global climate change and anthropogenic influences. It is crucial that marine soundscape studies continue to be developed and pursued, to establish baselines for healthy ecosystems and/or document recovery following management actions.