Diel and Seasonal Variability in Kelp Forest Soundscapes Off the Southern California Coast
Frontiers in Marine Science
Soundscape ecology is a relatively new field that can provide insights into the structure and health of marine habitats. Though this field is growing, the acoustics of many marine habitats, including the giant kelp forests off Southern California, remain poorly studied. Here, we examine the diel and seasonal periodicity of kelp forest soundscapes within a protected and unprotected site off San Diego, CA. Singular value decomposition was used to identify frequency bands of interest, enabling
... erest, enabling tracking of these bands through seasons to examine their variability. Four frequency bands were identified: (1) 60–130 Hz, which encompassed a putative fish chorus, (2) 300–500 Hz, which encompassed a different putative fish chorus, (3) a band that encompassed humming generated by Plainfin Midshipmen Poricthys notatus (fundamental frequency: 85–95 Hz, and two subharmonics 175–185 Hz and 265–275 Hz), and (4) a band that encompassed the snaps of snapping shrimps from 2.5 to 7.5 kHz. Overall, kelp forest soundscapes exhibited diel and seasonal variability. In particular, the two putative fish choruses dominated the dusk soundscapes during late spring and summer, and the Midshipmen hums persisted throughout nights in summer. Snapping shrimp sounds exhibited stereotypic crepuscular activity, with peaks in acoustic energy in the 2.5–7.5 kHz band occurring at dusk and dawn. In addition, vessel noise was identified and found to exhibit strong seasonal and spatial variation. Vessel noise was greatest during August and September at the protected site and was generally lower during the winter and spring months. These findings help establish reference acoustic indices for the kelp forests off Southern California, within and outside of a protected area, and can provide resource managers with information on how well a marine reserve protects a species of interest, as well as the putative human visitation of these protected areas.