What if humans would be able to listen to what nature has to say? Conservationists are trying to grasp non-human sounds, which might help us to better understand environmental changes and the human impact on ecosystems. How? By using portable digital bio-acoustic tools as small as a credit card. These tools are devices or methods used to study and analyse the sounds produced by living organisms, assisting scientists in gathering information about animal communication and behaviour, population dynamics, as well as ecosystem health. This new 'listening' technology could help us sustain the life of all organisms on Earth.
How does it work? Digital microphones are being strategically placed in some of the most remote places worldwide. With the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) scientists are now deciphering communication patterns which allows us to better comprehend the behavioural patterns of animals and plants. As a result, we can now uncover the natural sounds that often exist at ultrasonic or infrasonic frequencies - sounds that are normally outside the range of the human ear.
Humans are not the only beings capable of holding a conversation, so it seems. Plants and other animals have countless of interactions that we are completely unaware of. So what has been revealed through these bioacoustic tools? Well, they have unveiled surprising findings. For instance, research has demonstrated that sea turtles - previously thought to be mute - emit over 200 distinct sounds. The same research has shed light on parental care in turtles. Contrary to popular belief, it was proven that mother turtles do not abandon their offspring but guide them to safety from afar through ultrasonic vocalization.
These same tools have also made big discoveries in fauna. It has been revealed that coral and fish larvae navigate their way back to their place of origin by recognizing the distinct sounds emitted by the reef where they were born. It has also been shown that plants exhibit a growth response to specific sound frequencies, accelerating their growth rate; and that certain species, such as tomatoes - beyond the range of human hearing - even emit sounds.
By discovering previously undiscovered sounds, scientists are creating a stronger bond between humans and the environment. Simultaneously, they are revealing that our understanding of non-human beings is still quite limited... Perhaps the key to discovering new approaches for safeguarding and preserving the environment lies in attentively tuning into the natural world surrounding us - maybe all we need to do is listen.