TitleTemporal variability of a soundscape near a mid-oceanic atoll in the northern Indian ocean
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsPanicker D, Stafford KM
Date Published06/2023

Soundscape ecology in the context of physical oceanographic features is an emerging area of research revealing interactions between physically, biologically and anthropogenically driven sounds and their sources. Sound-scapes can shape and reveal distributions of a range of species, from fish larvae to whales, within marine eco-systems. The northern Indian Ocean is a region of high environmental variability driven by seasonally reversing monsoonal winds. The mid-oceanic islands within these waters consist of steep slopes forming a crucial interface between shallow reef and deep oceanic habitats. Studies on soundscape are limited in these waters. The aim of this study was to characterize major sound sources off the southern and northern side of the Kavaratti atoll in Lakshadweep islands, India, located at the northern part of the Laccadive-Maldives-Chagos Ridge. A first look at shallow water soundscapes are provided here using passive acoustic monitoring, and how they correlate with satellite-derived oceanographic variables. Geophonic and biophonic sources across different frequency bands are identified with three major choruses - a dusk fish chorus, a midnight chorus that is speculated to be produced by myctophids, and a snapping shrimp night chorus. Low frequency biophonic choruses peaked in inter-monsoon months (January to March), while low frequency geophonic sound levels peaked during monsoon months (June to October) and increased with wind speed. The dusk fish chorus and the midnight chorus (at the south site) decreased with increasing sea surface salinity, while the snapping shrimp chorus (at the south site) increased with increasing sea surface salinity. Snapping shrimp chorus levels increased with decreasing wind speed. The dusk fish chorus peaked during full and waning moon, and the midnight and snapping shrimp choruses peaked during new moon periods. The sources and patterns described in this study will help compare with future soundscape and sound pressure level measurements within this region. This will be useful in the context of a changing climate and for planning future developmental projects on the islands. Reef choruses link with peak larval recruitment, spawning, or feeding activities, and further investigation into the peak calling times reported here will help uncover the function of choruses. Expanding the collection of passive acoustic monitoring data and oceanographic measurements over longer timescales will significantly advance 'soundscape oceanography'.