National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

Seasonal trends and primary contributors to the low-frequency soundscape of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Haver, S.M., Z. Rand, L.T. Hatch, D. Lipski, R.P. Dziak, J. Gedamke, J. Haxel, S.A. Heppell, J. Jahncke, M.F. McKenna, D.K. Mellinger, W.K. Oestreich, L. Roche, J. Ryan, and S.M. Van Parijs

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 148(2), 845, doi: 10.1121/10.0001726, View online (2020)

Passive acoustic monitoring of ocean soundscapes can provide information on ecosystem status for those tasked with protecting marine resources. In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established a long-term, continuous, low-frequency (10 Hz–2 kHz) passive acoustic monitoring site in the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS), located offshore of the central United States of America (U.S.) west coast, near San Francisco, CA. The California Current flows southward along the coast in this area, supporting a diverse community of marine animals, including several baleen whale species. Acoustic data analysis revealed that both large vessels and vocalizing baleen whales contribute to the ambient soundscape of the CBNMS. Sound levels fluctuated by month with the highest levels in the fall and lowest levels in the summer. Throughout the year, very low-frequency (10–100 Hz) sound levels were most variable. Vessels and whales overlap in their contributions to ambient sound levels within this range, although vessel contributions were more omnipresent, while seasonal peaks were associated with vocalizing whales. This characterization of low-frequency ambient sound levels in the CBNMS establishes initial baselines for an important component of this site's underwater soundscape. Standardized monitoring of soundscapes directly supports NOAA's ability to evaluate and report on conditions within national marine sanctuaries.

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