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Publication of guidelines for long-term ecoacoustic monitoring

A team of leading researchers has published guidelines for the use of long-term ecoacoustic monitoring in collaboration with Baker Consultants Ltd and Manchester Metropolitan University, funded by the UK Acoustics Network Plus.

Passive acoustic monitoring for assessing biodiversity, habitat health and environmental change is now firmly established as a powerful tool for ecologists. Backed by a large body of peer reviewed literature, the application of these techniques is partly driven by the increasing availability of cheap recording technology and more sophisticated analysis techniques. To fully exploit the benefits that these tools can offer, a set of guidelines has now been compiled to bring consistency and good-practice to how ecologists and environmental managers can apply these methods.

Based on the peer reviewed literature, this guidance will enable a crossover between academia and the practical use of bioacoustics in areas such as agri-environment monitoring, Biodiversity Net Gain, habitat creation, rewilding and species conservation. The benefits of ecoacoustics are significant and they have the advantage of being objective, eliminating surveyor bias, being easily repeatable and the equipment and data is inexpensive.

The co-production of these guidelines follows a UK Acoustics Network (UKAN+) ecoacoustics symposium, which was held at Manchester Metropolitan University in June 2022, supported by the University of Sussex, and attended by over 160 people, both online and in-person.

Oliver Metcalf (PhD) Postdoctoral Research Associate at Manchester Metropolitan University said: “This document is a product of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University and Carlos Abrahams at Baker Consultants, funded by a grant from the UK Acoustics Network. It takes the available research out of the academic field and into real life practice.

We’re hoping it will allow ecologists, conservation practitioners, land managers, farmers, and rewilders to use the latest developments in acoustic monitoring to survey the biodiversity on their land and monitor changes. This guidance is clearly very timely, given the recent announcements about grants for farmers to manage their land for wildlife, the requirements to deliver Biodiversity Net Gain and of course the increasing popularity of rewilding solutions.”

The guidelines are focussed on the use of ecoacoustic monitoring of audible sounds within terrestrial, temperate ecosystems typical of the UK and elsewhere in Europe. They deliberately do not cover the ultrasonic frequencies of bats, or the marine environment, as these protocols exist elsewhere.

Carlos Abrahams, Director of Bioacoustics at Baker Consultants has been researching technical applications of these methods for over ten years and last year he was awarded his PhD by Publication, for a series of peer-reviewed papers on bioacoustics. As a practising ecologist he has always focused on the real-world application of these technologies in the field, to ensure that the methods are reliable and repeatable when applied in a commercial environment.

Alice Eldridge (PhD) Reader in Sonic Systems at the University of Sussex, early innovator in ecoacoustics and co-author said; “It is really inspiring to see how rapidly academic research is being applied in the field.”