La pollution sonore détruit les écosystèmes naturels

La pollution sonore liée aux humains double le bruit de fond dans 63 % des aires protégées, et le multiplie par dix dans 21 % de ces zones.



Selon plusieurs études, le bruit des activités humaines met en danger la faune sauvage, notamment en modifiant leurs comportements naturels jusque dans les habitats les plus reculés. Un constat qui appelle l’humanité à mieux prendre en compte les sensibilités acoustiques variées qui composent la nature, et à cultiver le silence.

Bruit de fond

Beaucoup d’espèce animales sont dotées d’une ouïe bien supérieure aux capacités humaines ; le loup, par exemple, possède un spectre auditif deux fois plus large (jusqu’à 40 kHz, quand l’homme est limité à 20 kHz) qui lui permet de mieux entendre et plus loin. Pourtant, nous ne prenons pas assez en compte l’impact universel de notre bruit sur la vie sauvage, jusque dans les zones les plus éloignées et les plus protégées.

Crédit Photo : Michael LaRosa




Selon une étude récemment publiée dans la revue Science, la pollution sonore met en danger les écosystèmes naturels partout, même dans les zones protégées. Première étude à être menée à si grande échelle (492 sites protégés aux Etats-Unis, qui possèdent des réserves naturelles sur 14% de leur territoire), cette initiative prouve que le bruit d’origine humaine (ou bruit anthropique), produit par les transports, les activités industrielles et les chantiers, se répand partout : ainsi, la pollution sonore liée aux humains double le bruit de fond dans 63 % des aires protégées, et le multiplie par dix dans 21 % de ces zones.

Quand le son modifie les comportements

Au-delà du constat, cette étude rejoint plusieurs autres travaux scientifiques mettant en évidence le danger que représente une exposition anormale au bruit pour les espèces animales :

« Le bruit des hommes peut empêcher un animal d’entendre d’autres sons importants, qui lui permettent de se diriger, de chercher de la nourriture, de défendre son territoire, d’éviter des prédateurs, d’attirer un partenaire ou de maintenir des groupes sociaux », explique Rachel Buxton, chercheuse à l’université d’Oxford.

Ensuite, le bruit peut forcer les espèces sauvages à modifier leur comportement naturel pour s’y adapter : c’est le cas de la mésange des villes, qui a été contrainte d’augmenter la fréquence de son chant pour couvrir les nuisances sonores de la ville, ou encore des cachalots, qui suivent les expéditions géologiques citées plus haut parce que le canon à air attire et affaiblit leurs proies, les calmars géants.

Crédit Photo : Paul Jarvis




Le danger peut venir sous plusieurs formes : d’abord, le bruit peut détériorer directement les organes auditifs des animaux, en général plus sensibles que l’homme, et les rendre vulnérables : il en est allé ainsi par exemple pour les calamars géants retrouvés échoués en Espagne, à la suite d’une étude géophysique. En effet, le canon à air utilisé par les géophysiciens a provoqué des lésions dans les organes sensoriels des calamars ; désorientés, ceux-ci se sont massivement échoués sur les côtes. Sans créer de lésion, le bruit peut aussi provoquer du stress et donc des troubles de la reproduction, comme chez les rainettes.

Presque plus de zones à l’abri du bruit

Pour l’espèce humaine autant que pour la vie sauvage, il est crucial de préserver des zones à l’abri de la pollution sonore. Les conclusions de l’étude de la revue Science rejoignent le travail du bioaccousticien Gordon Hempton, qui sillonne le monde depuis 35 ans à la recherche de zone exemptes de pollution sonore : selon lui, il n’en resterait qu’une cinquantaine. Il ne s’agit pas de zones silencieuses — celles-ci n’existent pas — mais de zones sans bruit anthropique pour l’ouïe humaine (pour bien faire, il faudrait mesurer avec la sensibilité des animaux à la meilleure ouïe).

Il nous faut donc renforcer la protection des zones sans bruit, car celui-ci se propage trop facilement sur des kilomètres, jusque dans les réserves naturelles (14 % de celles-ci subissent un bruit multiplié par dix) ou jusqu’au fond de l’océan (au fond de la fosse des Mariannes, à plus de 10km de profondeur, la sonde « Challenger Deep » enregistre le vrombissement de moteurs à la surface).

Garder le silence, c’est prendre soin d’une faculté essentielle : « si certaines espèces sont aveugles, aucune n’a survécu à la sélection naturelle sans être capable de percevoir les bruits qui trahissent un prédateur en approche », nous rappelle Gordon Hempton. Pour les animaux comme pour l’espèce humaine, le calme et l’absence de pollution sonore sont facteurs de bonne santé. Rendre cette quiétude aux espèces sauvages, c’est aussi prouver notre capacité à écouter et apprécier le silence.


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