Connecting soundscape to landscape: Which acoustic index best describes landscape configuration?

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Soundscape assessment has been proposed as a remote ecological monitoring tool for measuring biodiversity, but few studies have examined how soundscape patterns vary with landscape configuration and condition. The goal of our study was to examine a suite of published acoustic indices to determine whether they provide comparable results relative to varying levels of landscape fragmentation and ecological condition in nineteen forest sites in eastern Australia. Our comparison of six acoustic indices according to time of day revealed that two indices, the acoustic complexity and the bioacoustic index, presented a similar pattern that was linked to avian song intensity, but was not related to landscape and biodiversity attributes. The diversity indices, acoustic entropy and acoustic diversity, and the normalized difference soundscape index revealed high nighttime sound, as well as a dawn and dusk chorus. These indices appear to be sensitive to nocturnal biodiversity which is abundant at night in warm, subtropical environments. We argue that there is need to better understand temporal partitioning of the soundscape by specific taxonomic groups, and this should involve integrated research on amphibians, insects and birds during a 24 h cycle. The three indices that best connected the soundscape with landscape characteristics, ecological condition and bird species richness were acoustic entropy, acoustic evenness and the normalized difference soundscape index. This study has demonstrated that remote soundscape assessment can be implemented as an ecological monitoring tool in fragmented Australian forest landscapes. However, further investigation should be dedicated to refining and/or combining existing acoustic indices and also to determine if these indices are appropriate in other landscapes and for other survey purposes.


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