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Noise Pollution

Airplane flying over Alcatraz Island
Airplane flying over Alcatraz Island. NPS photo.

"Noise knows no boundaries."

It is impossible to see, difficult to define, and even harder to regulate. But for all of its esoteric qualities, recent studies are revealing surprising impacts of noise on park resources and visitor experiences. The summaries provided on the Effects of Noise in our national parks will provide you with an idea of the importance of sound and the impacts of noise to wildlife, visitors, and cultural and historic resources.

Since parks were created in part for people's enjoyment, a certain degree of noise is appropriate. Some means of exploring our protected areas, however, are noisier than others. When visitors view the park via an air or bus tour, for example, intrusive sounds are created that can impact wildlife and other visitor experiences. The increasing popularity of such activities demands that managers understand and work to mitigate their effects on park resources.

Noise sources come from outside park boundaries as well. The distant hum of overhead air traffic or whirring of wind turbines can take a toll on park resources. Determining the levels and types of sound that are appropriate for different areas within a park is key to effective management. The Natural Sounds Program can provide data that are critical for making the complex decisions that will preserve vulnerable soundscapes.

To learn more about extrinsic sound sources effecting national parks and the strategies and decisions for managing these issues, please visit the Noise Sources page.

Last Updated: April 17, 2012