Study: Aircraft noise affects some bird species in the long term | free press

When Berlin Tegel Airport was still operating, the birds began their morning song as distinct in quieter places. After the airport closed at the end of 2020, researchers listened again.

Berlin.

According to biologists, decades of aircraft noise at Berlin’s Tegel Airport have left their mark on the behavior of some bird species. Even half a year after the international airport closed in 2020, species like the blackbird near the former runway started their morning song earlier than their species in quieter places. This was reported by Léna de Framond and Henrik Brumm from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (in the process of being established) in Seewiesen, Bavaria, in a recent study.

The relatively early singing of birds in the Tegel approach trajectory was actually shown in a 2016 study, when flight operations were still taking place. According to the researchers, the animals seem to send their signals there early so they don’t get lost in the turbine noise. The song contains vital information, such as defending your territory and attracting partners.

“Overall, we show that noise pollution can have long-lasting effects on animal behavior and that eliminating noise does not lead to immediate recovery in some species,” the authors state in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The good news: for the majority of the species examined, a normalization of singing times has already been seen in the spring of 2021. This applies, for example, to robins, many species of nipple and the great spotted woodpecker.

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Morning chorus postponed for 20 minutes

According to the study, blackbirds, nuthatches, song thrushes, wood pigeons and black hats near airports were still hearing very early in 2021 about species that were in quieter places. “The noticeable shift in the morning choir is up to 20 minutes, depending on the genre,” said project manager Broome, whose science career began in the capital. “One would think it wouldn’t make much difference. But in birds, the morning chorus is timed precisely, right down to the order in which bird species begin to sing. A delay of five minutes can affect reproductive success.”

According to the authors, two mechanisms could be behind the different interactions depending on the species. “In some species, such as the robin, the individual appears to be able to adapt quickly to a changing noise level,” Broome said. In the case of species like the blackbird, which still sing early when there are noisy take-offs and landings, it is likely that the population has changed due to decades of noise – so early risers are more likely to be found near the airport. “It will likely take a few generations for singing times to return to normal.”

Tegel closed at the end of 2020

Broome said that years ago, when Tegel’s closure was announced, researchers recognized the opportunity for a before-and-after comparison. For the current study, birdsong were recorded in the early morning in May 2021 at a distance of about 150 meters from the site of the former airport in Jungfernheide. There were also recordings of quieter control positions in Berlin. Background noise was also recorded separately and taken into account. The data were compared with those in the first study.

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After more than 70 years, the last plane took off from Tegel on November 8, 2020. Twelve years after the closure of Tempelhof Airport, Berlin concentrated its air traffic at the Schönefeld site. BER opened there at the end of October 2020. A research and industrial area and apartments are now being built on the site of the former airport in Tegel. (dpa)

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