It Often Howls More Than It Chugs: Wind versus Ship Noise Underwater in Australia’s Maritime Regions
Marine soundscapes consist of cumulative contributions by diverse sources of sound grouped into: physical (e.g., wind), biological (e.g., fish), and anthropogenic (e.g., shipping)—each with unique spatial, temporal, and frequency characteristics. In terms of anthropophony, shipping has been found to be the greatest (ubiquitous and continuous) contributor of low-frequency underwater noise in several northern hemisphere soundscapes. Our aim was to develop a model for ship noise in Australian waters, which could be used by industry and government to manage marine zones, their usage, stressors, and potential impacts. We also modelled wind noise under water to provide context to the contribution of ship noise. The models were validated with underwater recordings from 25 sites. As expected, there was good congruence when shipping or wind were the dominant sources. However, there was less agreement when other anthropogenic or biological sources were present (i.e., primarily marine seismic surveying and whales). Off Australia, pristine marine soundscapes (based on the dominance of natural, biological and physical sound) remain, in particular, near offshore reefs and islands. Strong wind noise dominates along the southern Australian coast. Underwater shipping noise dominates only in certain areas, along the eastern seaboard and on the northwest shelf, close to shipping lanes.