Modelling sound attenuation in heterogeneous environments for improved bioacoustic sampling of wildlife populations

Methods in Ecology and Evolution



  1. Acoustic sampling methods are becoming increasingly important in biological monitoring. Sound attenuation is one of the most important dynamics affecting the utility of acoustic data as it directly affects the probability of detection of individuals by acoustic sensor arrays and especially the localization of acoustic signals necessary in telemetry studies. Therefore, models of sound attenuation are necessary to make efficient use of acoustic data in ecological monitoring and assessment applications. Models of attenuation in widespread use are based on Euclidean distance between source and sensor, which is justified under spherical attenuation of sound waves in homogeneous environments.
  2. In this paper, I develop a model of sound attenuation based on a non‐Euclidean cost‐weighted distance metric which contains attenuation coefficients that characterize the attenuation of sound due to environmental heterogeneity in the vicinity of an acoustic sensor array.
  3. I show that parameters of the proposed attenuation model can be estimated by maximum likelihood using experimental data from an array of fixed sources, thus allowing investigators who use bioacoustic methods to devise explicit models of sound attenuation in situ and apply them to localization of sources and density estimation. In addition, drawing on analogy with spatial capture–recapture models, I argue that parameters of the non‐Euclidean model of attenuation can be estimated when source locations are unknown. Thus, the models can be applied to real field studies which require estimation of attenuation parameters or localization of signals.
  4. Models of heterogeneous sound attenuation allow more accurate descriptions of acoustic monitoring data, and therefore should produce more accurate estimates of ecological parameters of interest, including source locations, density, and movement trajectories. Moreover, the ability to test specific hypotheses about the effects of habitat and landscape structure on sound attenuation can improve the design of acoustic monitoring arrays and lead to more efficient deployment of acoustic sensing technology.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Modelling sound attenuation in heterogeneous environments for improved bioacoustic sampling of wildlife populations
Series title Methods in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1111/2041-210X.13040
Volume 9
Issue 9
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher British Ecological Society
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 1939
Last page 1947