Decades of research demonstrate that roads impact wildlife and suggest traffic noise as a primary cause of population declines near roads. We created a “phantom road” using an array of speakers to apply traffic noise to a roadless landscape, directly testing the effect of noise alone on an entire songbird community during autumn migration. Thirty-one percent of the bird community avoided the phantom road. For individuals that stayed despite the noise, overall body condition decreased by a full SD and some species showed a change in ability to gain body condition when exposed to traffic noise during migratory stopover. We conducted complementary laboratory experiments that implicate foraging-vigilance behavior as one mechanism driving this pattern. Our results suggest that noise degrades habitat that is otherwise suitable, and that the presence of a species does not indicate the absence of an impact.
This document was originally published by National Academy of Sciences in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1504710112.
Ware, Heidi E.; McClure, Christopher J.W.; Carlisle, Jay D.; and Barber, Jesse R.. (2015). "A Phantom Road Experiment Reveals Traffic Noise is an Invisible Source of Habitat Degradation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(39), 12105-12109.