A Stochastic Simulation Model for Assessing the Masking Effects of Road Noise for Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation, and Bioacoustic Monitoring

Document Type


Publication Date



Traffic noise is one of the leading causes of reductions in animal abundances near roads. Acoustic masking of conspecific signals and adventitious cues is one mechanism that likely causes animals to abandon loud areas. However, masking effects can be difficult to document in situ and the effects of infrequent noise events may be impractical to study. Here, we present the Soundscapes model, a stochastic individual-based model that dynamically models the listening areas of animals searching for acoustic resources (“searchers"). The model also studies the masking effects of noise for human detections of the searchers. The model is set in a landscape adjacent to a road. Noise produced by vehicles traveling on that road is represented by calibrated spectra that vary with speed. Noise propagation is implemented using ISO-9613 procedures. We present demonstration simulations that quantify declines in searcher efficiency and human detection of searchers at relatively low traffic volumes, fewer than 50 vehicles per hour. Traffic noise is pervasive, and the Soundscapes model offers an extensible tool to study the effects of noise on bioacoustics monitoring, point-count surveys, the restorative value of natural soundscapes, and auditory performance in an ecological context.