Spatial and temporal variation in the acoustic habitat of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) within a highly urbanized estuary

Sarah A. Marley, Christine Erbe, Chandra P. Salgado Kent, Miles J. G. Parsons, Iain M. Parnum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Downloads (Pure)


There is growing awareness of underwater noise in a variety of marine habitats, and how such noise may adversely affect marine species. This is of particular concern for acoustically-specialized species, such as dolphins. In order to ascertain the potential impacts of anthropogenic noise on these animals, baseline information is required for defining the soundscape of dolphin habitats. The Swan-Canning River system in Western Australia flows through the city of Perth, and experiences numerous anthropogenic activities. Despite this, the river system is home to a community of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). To provide a baseline soundscape description of dolphin habitat, over 11,600 h of acoustic data were analyzed from five sites within the Swan River (from Fremantle Inner Harbor to 20 km upstream) across an 8-year period. Multiple sound sources were recorded at these sites, including: snapping shrimp; fishes; dolphins; pile-driving; bridge and road traffic; and vessel traffic. The two most prevalent sound sources, vessel traffic and snapping shrimp, likely have very different effects on dolphin communication with the former expected to be more disruptive. Sites were characteristic in their prominent sound sources, showing clear among-site variations, with some sites being “noisier” than others based on broadband noise levels, octave-band noise levels, and power spectrum density percentiles. Perth Waters had the highest broadband noise (10–11 kHz; median 113 dB re 1 μPa rms), whilst Heirisson Island was quietest (median 100 dB re 1 μPa rms). Generalized estimating equations identified variation in broadband noise levels within sites at a fine temporal scale, although sites differed in the significance of temporal variables. At Mosman Bay, a long-term dataset spanning eight years highlighted inter-annual variation in broadband noise levels, but no overall upwards or downwards trend over time. Acoustic habitats of the Swan River displayed significant variations at a variety of temporal and spatial scales throughout areas frequented by the local dolphin community. Such variations should be quantified when assessing dolphin acoustic habitat as they may provide significant clues to dolphin behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Article number197
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial and temporal variation in the acoustic habitat of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) within a highly urbanized estuary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this