Natural sounds in national parks and gardens are great for our health, a new study reveals.
North American experts examined sound recordings from 251 sites in 66 national parks across the U.S. as part of their study.
They found that heavy rain improved people’s positive emotions, while bird noises reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.
Water was more effective in developing positive emotions, which may be related to the vital role of water for survival, experts say, or the ability of continuous water sounds to hide another undesirable sound.
National parks have some of the most precious soundscapes and can strengthen public health, according to the team – but they need to be protected from violent noise from the surrounding urban areas.
Pictured is Congaree National Park, South Carolina. New research by a team of North American scientists shows that natural sounds are good for our health
‘Park sites near urban areas with higher visitor rates represent important targets for landscape conservation to strengthen visitor health,’ said Kurt Fristrup, co-author of the study and a bioacoustical scientist at the National Service. National Park.
‘Nature-based health interventions are becoming increasingly common in parks and the inclusion of specific consideration of the acoustic environment is an opportunity to strengthen health outcomes for humans.’
Nature sounds have long evoked powerful reactions in humans – such as inspiring Beethoven ‘s Pastoral Symphony, the team says.
Despite their importance in human history, the growth of urbanization has led to a presence natural no-noise sounds are associated with people like car horns as an ‘increasingly rare mix’.
As well as being gentle for humans, natural sounds provide vital information for wildlife, as many species rely on sound for communication.
Two of the study authors are leaders of the Sound and Light Ecology Team at Colorado State University, which works to better understand the impact of noise and light pollution on ecological processes and organisms.
Examples of positive health and impact metrics included improved mood and mental capacity, and measurements of stress and anxiety included lower pain, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Most visited National Park Service sites
Olden National Gate Recreation Ground, 15 million visitors
Blue Ridge Parkway, 14.9million
Smog Mountains National Park, 12.5million
Gateway National Recreation Area, 9.4million
Lincoln Memorial, 7.8million
George Washington Memorial Parkway, 7.5 million
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, 7.5 million
Natchez Trace Parkway, 6.3million
Grand Canyon National Park, 5.97million
Gulf Islands National Coast, 5.6million
Figures are for 2019 (pre-pandemic)
For their study, researchers conducted a literature review and meta-analysis of 18 publications examining the health benefits of natural sounds.
Overall, exposure to natural sounds improved mood and mental ability, while measurements of stress and anxiety – pain, heart rate, and blood pressure – went down.
Compared to a combination of natural sounds, water noises had the greatest positive effects on human health, but bird sounds had the greatest effect on stress relief.
For the second part of their study, the team examined the distribution of natural sounds in relation to human noise at 221 sites across 68 U.S. national parks.
It was hoped that this part of the study would highlight how unwanted noise in national parks and gardens is damaging the tranquility.
National park noises with very little human noise and noisy noises occurred at only 11.3 percent of the sites.
Among all sites, water sounds were heard 22.8 per cent of the time, and bird sounds were heard 42.1 per cent of the time.
National parks with more visitors showed similar levels of natural sounds but higher levels of human sounds, compared to parks with fewer annual visitors.
Most sites with a low capacity of human noises and a high potential of biological or geophysical sounds were far from urban areas and located in Alaska, Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest.
Visitors climb Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Raising awareness of natural soundscapes at national parks provides opportunities to improve ‘visitor health outcomes’, say study authors
The findings show that conserving national parks and their natural sound landscapes is beneficial to ecosystem conservation and public health, according to the authors.
Access to natural spaces in the past year in the pandemic has been particularly important as part of our daily exercise routine.
‘In so many ways Covid-19 pandemic disease has stressed nature for human health,’ said study author Rachel Buxton at Carleton University, Canada.
‘As traffic has declined during quarantine, many people have approached sound scenes in a whole new way – noticing the quiet sounds of birds singing just outside their window. . ‘
The study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
HOW GOOD IS HEALTH INCLUDING
Noise can not only disturb him, but he can prevent sleep, hearing loss and put people’s health at great risk.
The World Health Organization recommends a guideline level of 30 dB LAeq for restless sleep, and a daytime rate for outdoor noise levels of 50dB to prevent people from being ‘moderately disturbed’.
Physical effects of exposure to sound include narrowing of blood vessels, muscle tension, increased heart rate and blood pressure and changes in stomach and abdominal motility.
Several reports have made direct links between transport noise and heart health:
- A 2015 study by Barts and the London School of Medicine found that people surrounded by daytime traffic noise above 60db were 4 per cent more likely to die than those with 55db noise levels – around a high conversation rate. .
- In the first study of its kind, researchers in Denmark in 2011 found that for every ten decibels more noise, the risk of stroke increased by 14 percent. The risk increased 27 percent for people age 65 and older.
- Research published this year which tracked thousands of people living in Amsterdam over four years found that they were exposed to traffic noise over 70 decibels (db) 65% more the risk of depression.
The World Health Organization has calculated that at least 1 million years of healthy lives are lost each year in western European countries due to environmental noise.