Each year, the Garden Media Group puts out an annual report of trends for the upcoming year. The theme for 2017 is growing 365 days a year, and one of the categories is Wellness.
It’s a fact that gardening and nature are good for you. They improve your mental and emotional well-being, decrease stress, reduce incidences of depression, and lower blood pressure. When we are healthy, we are joyful and productive. Did you know that the sounds in nature play a part in that?
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The study of sound in nature is called Soundscape Ecology. Bryan Pijanowski, a Purdue University Professor of Forestry and Natural Resources is hoping to make this a new scientific field.
He and his colleagues have set up digital sound monitors in various ecosystems around the world. They analyze the recordings of bird songs, wildlife, wind, water, thunder, and rain to determine the health of the area. A wide variety of sounds means the area is biologically diverse, which is important for the ecosystem. Small changes in quality and quantity may indicate problems before they are visible, which would be helpful in conservation efforts.
"In urban areas, human noise has drowned out or replaced natural sounds. Consequently, there is less biological diversity."
Pijanowski also listens to human sounds, which he refers to as noise. Voices, traffic, machinery, and sirens create noise. In urban areas, human noise has drowned out or replaced natural sounds. Consequently, there is less biological diversity. Residents are disconnected from nature and might be suffering from a lack of well-being, too.
Professor Pijanowski wrote a detailed article about soundscape ecology with case studies if you would like more information.
An arborist in Chicago, R J Laverne, noticed that the Emerald Ash Borer killed off entire stands of ash trees in the city. Some neighborhoods have no tree canopy at all, but others are still full. He is studying the soundscape ecology of both to see how different they are. By being able to hear the gradual demise of the healthy trees, he will be able to determine how the ecosystem changes as the trees die off.
Trees are a vital part of urban centers. They convert CO2 to oxygen, and by holding the soil, their roots prevent run-off and erosion in heavy storms. They absorb summer heat and provide shade, cooling buildings, roads and sidewalks. Trees also offer food and habitat for wildlife, and they buffer city noise. The beauty of a green urban landscape improves the well-being of urban dwellers, too.
Listen to this interesting and informative interview Laverne did with WNTI radio.
The home landscape
So what does soundscaping have to do with your yard?
A wide variety of vegetation is crucial for a vibrant ecosystem. Diversity produces a broader soundscape of birds and wildlife. It buffers the human noise that is a part of any neighborhood, and connects you with nature for your own good health. Laverne’s description of nature sounds as ‘soothing’ and offering a sense that ‘all is well’ seems accurate.
You won’t have control over the other aspects of soundscape ecology, such as thunder and rain. By planting many varieties of trees, shrubs, and flora, though, you can soothe the planet and yourself.