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Acoustic Forest Monitoring

Akustisches Waldmonitoring

Forest monitoring is an important approach to maintaining and enhancing the state of forests. For this purpose, various methods are employed to evaluate the ecological, economic, and social functions of forests and to monitor changes in ecosystems. To ensure effective monitoring, it is essential to comprehensively record all relevant aspects of biodiversity in the forest. One promising method for surveying species that produce sounds is the use of (bio)acoustic methods. The project “Feasibility study: Integration of (bio)acoustic methods for quantifying biodiversity in forest monitoring” is a collaboration between the Thünen-Institut, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN). The overall aim of this study is to evaluate the potential integration of (bio)acoustic methods into existing forest monitoring systems. The study will primarily focus on identifying and quantifying various animal groups, particularly birds and mammals.

Animals play a vital role in forest ecosystems as they perform functions such as pollination, seed dispersal, and consumption. While monitoring the health of trees and soil provides valuable information about the forest’s condition, the monitoring of organisms with shorter lifespans, including grasshoppers, certain cicadas, frogs, birds, and mammals, can contribute to the development of early warning systems that are relevant to biological processes and forest dynamics. An acoustic monitoring system can capture changes in species composition, frequency, and phenology. The project aims to collect objective data on the diversity of sound-emitting animal species and other forest sounds in an automated manner. These pieces of information should be established as an essential component of forest monitoring, enabling a timely, data-based assessment of the state of animal populations living in the forest. To achieve this, the feasibility study will be conducted in two phases. During the initial phase, existing (bio)acoustic methods, particularly those that can be used to identify and quantify animal vocalizations in forested areas, will be reviewed and evaluated. In the second phase, a comprehensive assessment will be undertaken to examine the complete integration of (bio)acoustic methods into forest monitoring, including the associated technical, logistical, and financial challenges.

The technology allows for the rapid collection of extensive data on potentially all sound-emitting animal species. However, the subsequent analysis of the recorded audio remains a time-consuming task. Therefore, efforts are underway to facilitate the analysis of the acoustic environment based on acoustic pattern recognition, with the researchers in the project tackling the technical challenges presented by these new methods. Notably, the animal sound archive at the MfN holds a substantial collection of bioacoustic studies, serving as a valuable reference for the development of algorithms for acoustic pattern recognition.

The development of the acoustic monitoring system within this project introduces exciting new possibilities for forest research and management. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to the conservation of biodiversity and the monitoring of the forest’s overall condition, which is crucial for this vital habitat’s future well-being.