The Garden of Earthly Fools

owlface5Detail
Jheronimus van Aken (c. 1450 – 1516)

 
New research published in the journal Biological Conservation finds that for every decibel of added noise, the hunting ability of saw-whet owls declines dramatically.
Their odds of detecting prey fell 8 percent per decibel, while the odds of actually striking the prey they did detect fell 5 percent per decibel.
By the time noise reached 61 decibels—a little louder than a busy restaurant—the owls completely failed to even notice nearby prey.

Lead researcher Tate Mason, education coordinator for the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, says the research was inspired by early studies into bats, which found that the flying mammals had to increase their hunting search times when flying near noisy highways.
“We wondered if other acoustically specialized predators, in particular birds, could be facing the same scenarios.”

They set out to examine the problem.
Instead of highways, though, they designed their experiment to replicate the sounds produced by natural-gas compression stations.

“Compressor stations are relatively new in the landscape,” Mason says. “They are increasing, and they run 24 hours a day, year-round.”
That gives them more impact than highways or airports, which create a lot of noise during the day but can be much quieter at night when owls tend to hunt.

Although he suspected that the birds would have impaired hunting ability, the complete failure surprised him. “The impact was more profound than I thought it would be,” he says.

Bangor University lecturer Graeme Shannon led work on a paper that synthesized research into the effects of noise on all manner of wildlife.
“These are noise levels that can readily extend hundreds of meters from an active drill rig or a busy highway,” he says, “which in effect drastically reduces the suitable habitat for animals that need to hunt.”

Mason says that’s an important aspect of his research. “The quiet places on Earth are becoming few and far between.”
Protecting those naturally quiet spaces from intrusive noise, he says, will help acoustic specialists such as saw-whet, Great Gray, and Northern Spotted owls.

“We have the ability to know ahead of time that there’s a threat out there that could be compromising owl habitat:
If we deal with that before the population declines, we can do better at conserving our wild creatures.”


http://www.audubon.org/news/human-noise-robs-owls-their-ability-hunt

Small Sounds

hoef caterpillar

Many scientific reports show inexplicable behaviours of plants that seem to be analogs to animal senses, behaviours, and perhaps even intellect.

This observation of complex behaviour in plants would seem to be impossible given the fact that plants don’t have the diversification of their bodies and biology into sensory organs, nervous systems, and brains, but the facts remain.

“Plants certainly have the capacity to feel mechanical loads,” said plant biologist Frank Telewski, who was not involved in the research. “They can respond to gravity, wind, ice or an abundance of fruit.”

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, in a collaboration that brings together audio and chemical analysis, have proven that plants hear sounds.

“Previous research has investigated how plants respond to acoustic energy, including music,” said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU.
When pure tones are played, some experiments have seen changes in plant growth, germination or gene expression. For instance, one recent study showed that young roots of corn will grow toward an auditory source playing continuous tones and even responded better to certain frequencies.

“However, our work is the first example of how plants respond to an ecologically relevant vibration. We found that feeding sounds of caterpillars attacking plants signal changes in the plant cells’ metabolism, creating more defensive chemicals that can repel attacks from caterpillars.”

It is similar to how our own immune systems work — an initial experience with insects or bacteria can help plants defend themselves better in future attacks by the same predator. So while a mustard plant might not respond the first time it encounters a hungry caterpillar, the next time it will.

A deeper investigation could lead to advances in agriculture and natural crop resistance — and we could avoid harmful pesticides.

“What is remarkable is that the plants exposed to different vibrations, including those made by a gentle wind or different insect sounds that share some acoustic features with caterpillar feeding vibrations did not increase their chemical defenses,” Cocroft said. “This indicates that the plants are able to distinguish feeding vibrations from other common sources of environmental vibration.”

“Both animal and vegetable has in common a billion years of evolution. Just why we insist on believing that only certain animal life found sentience a useful evolutionary path is beyond me. This thing we like to think of as our unique sentience is in fact not at all unique rather it is just the opposite.
We are not alone.”
Russ George

http://russgeorge.net/2014/07/01/plants-hear-sounds/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/can-plants-hear-study-finds-that-vibrations-prompt-some-to-boost-their-defenses/2014/07/06/8b2455ca-02e8-11e4-8fd0-3a663dfa68ac_story.html

 

Herbal Intelligence
What Plants Perceive
The Knowledge of Vegetables
Trees Cry Out