Oil and gas development has rapidly increased across the world over the last several decades. Anthropogenic noise, an invisible pollutant that alters animal distribution and behavior, could be responsible for documented wildlife population declines near loud compressor stations in energy extraction fields. We experimentally played back compressor noise, creating a “phantom energy extraction field” in a large-scale experiment, and tested the effects of noise on songbird distributions during the breeding season and on arthropod distributions. Further, to begin to understand the influence of noise produced by different types of extraction infrastructure, we examined the effects of sound intensity and bandwidth, or the amount of frequencies emanating from a noise source, on bird and insect abundance.
Breeding songbird distributions were negatively affected by broadband, high sound level noise exposure. We observed a 14 percent decrease in abundance of the songbird community and three individual species showed declines in noise. Our results further show that noise may either decrease or increase arthropod abundance depending on taxonomy groups, potentially impacting trophic relationships in the sage steppe ecosystem. We demonstrate the importance of understanding the potential landscape-scale costs of noise exposure and the acoustic structure of noise on wildlife.