The hidden pollution that is destroying our oceans

The new research on a hidden contamination of the sea which is gradually deteriorating the waters of the planet and the species that inhabit it

humpback whales swim in the water
A pod of humpback whales in close quarters and observed by a diver

When we talk about ocean pollution the first thing that comes to mind is certainly not the sound.

In reality, for several years scholars from all over the world have begun to analyze the effects and extent of "hidden" pollution, but with consequences that, in the light of the latest research, seem to be quite relevant for the living beings that inhabit the oceans. and for their survival.

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A dolphin swimming in the ocean
A dolphin swims in the waters suffering from contamination due to pollution

A growing and very dangerous "pollution".

But let's start with the basics. Noises have always been a fundamental factor survival strategy for all animals, not only those on land, but above all those that live in water. In this element, on the other hand, sound propagates better and underwater noises can travel for hundreds or thousands of kilometres.

With global warming and its impact on the oceans, these conditions have changed rapidly in recent years. Pressure, salinity and temperature have changed, causing changes in its comings as well produced and circulated in water. A "domino effect" that has caused effects on living beings that exploit these noises for their own survival.

We think, for example, of whales, which move and communicate with each other through the sound of the waves, but also of dolphins which are able to locate their prey by making sounds. Or to the fish that inhabit it the coral reef and they take advantage of the sound of the corals to find a refuge.

These are just a few examples, which however let us understand how delicate and fundamental the issue of noise pollution in the oceans is.

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A humpback whale swimming in the water
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Noise pollution of the seas is underestimated

The increase in water temperature and the acoustic pollution that is produced by man are therefore radically changing the way in which its propagate in the sea, causing a chain effect that is still today the subject of study and a mystery to many scientists.

To the "human" sounds, the result of the exploitation of the oceans, are added those that derive from the planet itself. We think of the winds and storms that shake the sea surface, of landslides and underwater earthquakes or tsunamis. Events that give rise to increased noise in recent years due to climate change.

Only recently have scholars begun to wonder how the way we perceive is changing the sounds in the oceans with the ever increasing human impact.

As known, sound in water travels much faster than it would in air. The way it then propagates is related to temperature, pressure and salinity of the liquid.

This is due to the fact that sounds are pressure waves which tend to compress and decompress the various water molecules. When the latter is hotter – due to overheating – the molecules vibrate much faster, allowing sound to travel rapidly.

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The consequences of “disturbing” sounds and noises

The soundscape of the oceans has changed drastically in recent years, making life even more complicated for many species. A problem that overlaps and accompanies delicate issues such as those concerning overfishing, plastic and chemical pollution.

As Antarctic and Arctic ice melts, in fact, the fresh water that is introduced into the oceans further modifies the propagation of sounds, modifying the salinity.

A phenomenon that puts a strain on the survival of those species that largely rely on the noises that propagate in the water.

Added to this is the noise that is caused by human activities with oil rigs, ships and various infrastructures.

Movements that contribute to increasing the chaos made of noises of any kind, seriously jeopardizing the ability of whales, dolphins and not only to exploit sound as a survival tool.

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Pollution: There is evidence that many fish find their way around the sounds of the reef
There is evidence that many fish find their way around the sounds of the reef