Reading the Literature

No study is complete without the foundation of the literature that precedes it. During our weekly literature meetings, we discussed the studies that provided the background for our own research. My two favorite studies:

McClure, C., Ware, H., Carlisle, J., Kaltenecker, G., and Barber, J. (2013). An experimental investigation into the effects of traffic noise on distributions of birds: avoiding the phantom road. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 280, 1-9.

Although previous studies had addressed the impact of roads on birds, there was no clear research defining what aspects of roads discouraged birds from choosing territories adjacent to them. This study was the first to address noise specifically, creating “phantom roads” through isolated mountain forests to see how the sound would affect the foraging habits of migratory birds at stopover sites. Most of the studied species avoided the noise-impacted area even though it meant abandoning good sources of food during a critical feeding time.

Francis, C., Ortega, C., & Cruz, A. (2009). Noise Pollution Changes Avian Communities and Species Interactions. Current Biology 19(16), 1415-1419. DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2009.06.052

This study examined the impact of a natural gas compressor in an otherwise fairly remote site, uncovering how birds with low-frequency calls avoided the deep rumbling of the compressor while birds with high-frequency communication actually shifted closer to it. The study also discussed the greater implications of this ecological shift – for example, scrub jays were deterred from the area near the compressor. Scrub jays distribute pinyon pine seeds; without the scrub jays, the piney habitat may recede in the long term, removing and fragmenting habitat that is temporarily being taken advantage of by birds like house sparrows.