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Perception of Low-Frequency Acoustic Signals by a Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Presence of Simulated Offshore Wind Turbine Noise
Abstract: Using auditory evoked potential (AEP) methods, a study was conducted on a harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) at the Dolfinarium Harderwijk in The Netherlands. The study measured the audible range of wind turbine sounds and their potential masking effects on the acoustic perception of the animal. AEPs were evoked with two types of acoustic stimuli: (1) click-type signals and (2) amplitude-modulated signals. The masking noise resembling the underwater sound emissions of an operational wind turbine was simulated. At first, the animal’s hearing threshold was measured at frequencies between 0.7 and 16 kHz. Subsequently, these measurements were repeated at frequencies between 0.7 and 2.8 kHz in the presence of two different levels of masking noise. The resulting data show a masking effect of the simulated wind turbine sound at 128 dB re 1 μPa at 0.7, 1.0, and 2.0 kHz. This masking effect varied between 4.8 and 7.3 dB at those frequencies. No significant masking was measured at a masking level of 115 dB re 1 μPa. The available data indicate that the potential masking effect would be limited to short ranges in the open sea, but limitations exist to this conclusion and all estimates are based on existing turbine types, not taking into account future developments of larger and potentially noisier turbine types.
Key Words: harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, acoustic perception, masking, auditory evoked potentials, North Sea, offshore wind turbines
Document Type: research article
Page Numbers: 55 – 68