Acoustic indices perform better when applied at ecologically meaningful time and frequency scales

Metcalf, O.C. and Barlow, J. and Devenish, C. and Marsden, S. and Berenguer, E. and Lees, A.C. (2021) Acoustic indices perform better when applied at ecologically meaningful time and frequency scales. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 12 (3). pp. 421-431. ISSN 2041-210X

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Abstract

Acoustic indices are increasingly employed in the analysis of soundscapes to ascertain biodiversity value. However, conflicting results and lack of consensus on best practices for their usage has hindered their application in conservation and land-use management contexts. Here we propose that the sensitivity of acoustic indices to ecological change and fidelity of acoustic indices to ecological communities are negatively impacted by signal masking. Signal masking can occur when acoustic responses of taxa sensitive to the effect of interest are masked by less-sensitive acoustic groups, or target taxa sonification is masked by non-target noise. We argue that by calculating acoustic indices at ecologically appropriate time and frequency bins, masking effects can be reduced and the efficacy of indices increased. We test this on a large acoustic dataset collected in Eastern Amazonia spanning a disturbance gradient of undisturbed, logged, burned, logged-and-burned and secondary forests. We calculated values for two acoustic indices: the Acoustic Complexity Index and the Bioacoustic Index, across the entire frequency spectrum (0–22.1 kHz), and four narrower subsets of the frequency spectrum; at dawn, day, dusk and night. We show that signal masking has a large impact on the sensitivity of acoustic indices to forest disturbance classes. Calculating acoustic indices at a range of narrower time–frequency bins substantially increases the classification accuracy of forest classes by random forest models. Furthermore, signal masking led to misleading correlations, including spurious inverse correlations, between biodiversity indicator metrics and acoustic index values compared to correlations derived from manual sampling of the audio data. Consequently, we recommend that acoustic indices are calculated either at a range of time and frequency bins, or at a single narrow bin, predetermined by a priori ecological understanding of the soundscape. © 2020 British Ecological Society

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Additional Information:
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Metcalf, OC, Barlow, J, Devenish, C, Marsden, S, Berenguer, E, Lees, AC. Acoustic indices perform better when applied at ecologically meaningful time and frequency scales. Methods Ecol Evol. 2021; 12: 421– 431. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13521 which has been published in final form at https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.13521 This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1100/1105
Subjects:
ID Code:
151107
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
26 Jan 2021 12:49
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
31 Mar 2021 10:43