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"Pod Cast" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

Research conducted at The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center shows that birds and other animals change their behavior in response to manmade noise, but human clamor doesn't just affect animals. Because many animals also pollinate plants or disperse their seeds, human noise can have ripple effects on plants too.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: birdies) Now for that talk about the birds and the trees.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

We humans sure can make a racket! (Sound effect: man-made noise: car horns, traffic, construction machinery, jack hammers) And we're not the only ones who react to it. Research shows that animals change their behavior in response to manmade noise. Many plants rely on animals to deliver pollen from one flower to the next, or to disperse their seeds. How might animal responses to noise affect those plants?

Researchers at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina ran a series of experiments in a wildlife area in New Mexico--a setting with thousands of natural gas wells (Sound effect: compressor) and noisy compressors that roar and rumble 24-7.

One experiment looked at pinyon pine seedlings in noisy and quiet areas. (Sound effect: mice) It seems, mice who destroy the pine seeds when they eat them, prefer noisy places while western scrub jays prefer the quiet ones. (Sound effect: jay) Each of these birds may bury thousands of seeds in the soil. The ones they don't come back for eventually germinate. Researchers counted the seedlings in the noisy and quiet areas and found four times as many at the quiet sites.

(Sound effect: human noise, traffic) Other experiments showed that noise can work in certain plants' favor. Either way, the impact can be long term.

Not the sound of a tree falling in the forest, but noise that may cause the tree never to grow in the first place.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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