Skip to main content Accessibility help

Spatial and temporal variability of sea ambient noise as an anthropogenic pressure index: the case of the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, Croatia

  • Nikolina Rako (a1), Marta Picciulin (a2), Ivica Vilibić (a3) and Caterina M. Fortuna (a1) (a4)


This study monitors the spatial and temporal variability of sea ambient noise (SAN) in the Cres-Lošinj archipelago from 2007 to 2009 (north-eastern Adriatic Sea, Croatia). The archipelago is an important marine habitat for many protected species, including the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) that is considered as vulnerable to disturbance from intense local vessel traffic. Systematic monthly sampling of SAN was carried out at ten predefined acoustic stations. Data on the presence, type and distance of vessels from these stations was also collected during sampling and vessels were allocated into four main classes. A sample of noise produced by a representative vessel of each vessel class was collected and the noise levels were extracted on the 1/3 octave band standard centre frequencies. All the recordings were analysed in terms of instantaneous sound pressure level (LLSP, L-weighted, 63 Hz–20 kHz, root mean square fast). The equivalent continuous sound pressure levels (LLeq) for vessel and SAN were calculated averaging the LLSP of vessel and SAN samples. Results indicate an increase of SAN levels particularly in the range of low frequencies (63 Hz–1 kHz) during the tourist season. A positive relationship was found between the spatial and temporal distribution of SAN and seasonal changes in anthropogenic pressure, in terms of vessel traffic. Potential implications for local marine life, with particular reference to bottlenose dolphins, are discussed.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: N. Rako, Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation, Kaštel 24, 51551 Veli Lošinj, Croatia email:


Hide All
Allen, M.C. and Read, A.J. (2000) Habitat selection of foraging bottlenose dolphins in relation to boat density near Clearwater, Florida. Marine Mammal Science 16, 815824.
Arko-Pijevac, M., Benac, Č., Kovačić, M., Kirinčić, M. and Gržančić, Ž. (2003) Ecological and geological valorisation of the coastal line and submarine area of the islands Ćutin mail and Ćutin veli aiming to establish a protected area. In Besendorfer, V. (ed.) Zbornik sažetaka priopćenja Osmog hrvatskog biološkog kongresa. Zagreb: Hrvatsko biološko društvo, pp. 407408.
Artegiani, A., Bregant, D., Paschini, E., Pinardi, N., Raicich, F. and Russo, A. (1997) The Adriatic Sea general circulation. Part I: air–sea interactions and water mass structure. Journal of Physical Oceanography 27, 14921514.
Au, W.W.L., Popper, A.N. and Fay, R.R. (2000) Hearing by whales and dolphins. New York: Springer-Verlag, Inc.
Bearzi, G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G. and Politi, E. (1997) Social ecology of bottlenose dolphins in the Kvarnerić (Northern Adriatic Sea). Marine Mammal Science 13, 650668.
Bejder, L., Samuels, A., Whitehead, H., Gales, N., Mann, J., Connor, R., Heithaus, M., Watson-Capps, J., Flaherty, C. and Krützen, M. (2006) Decline in relative abundance of bottlenose dolphins exposed to long-term disturbance. Conservation Biology 20, 17911798.
Bowles, A.E. (1995) Responses of wildlife to noise. In Knight, R.L. and Gutzwiller, K.J. (eds) Wildlife and recreationists: coexistence through management and research. Washington, DC: Island Press, pp. 109156.
Clark, C.W., Ellison, W.T., Southall, B.L., Hatch, L., Van Parijs, S.M., Frankel, A. and Ponirakis, D. (2009) Acoustic masking in marine ecosystems: intuitions, analysis, and implication. Marine Ecology Progress Series 395, 201222.
Croatian Bureau of Statistics (2011) Popis stanovništva, kućanstava i stanova 2011. Prvi rezultati po naseljima. Statistička izvješća 1441 [Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011, First Results by Settlements]. Statistical Reports 1441. ISSN 1332-0297, 208 pp.
Davenport, J. and Davenport, J.L. (2006) The impact of tourism and personal leisure transport on coastal environments: a review. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 67, 280292.
Erbe, C. (2002) Underwater noise of whale-watching boats and potential effects on killer whales, Orcinus orca, based on an acoustic impact model. Marine Mammal Science 18, 394418.
Erbe, C. and Farmer, D.M. (2000) A software model to estimate zones of impact on marine mammals around anthropogenic noise. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 108, 13271331.
Favro, S. and Saganić, I. (2007) Natural characteristics of Croatian littoral area as a comparative advantage for nautical tourism development. Geoadria 12, 5981.
Fortuna, C.M. (2006) Ecology and conservation of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in the north-eastern Adriatic Sea. PhD thesis. University of St Andrews, UK.
Hastie, G.D., Wilson, B., Tufft, L.H. and Thompson, P.M. (2003) Bottlenose dolphins increase breathing synchrony in response to boat traffic. Marine Mammal Science 19, 7484.
Haviland-Howell, G., Frankel, A.S., Powell, C.M., Bocconcelli, A., Herman, R.L. and Sayigh, L.S. (2007) Recreational boating traffic: a chronic source of anthropogenic noise in the Wilmington, North Carolina Intracoastal Waterway. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 122, 151160.
Hildebrand, J.A. (2009) Anthropogenic and natural sources of ambient noise in the ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 395, 520.
Jensen, F.H., Bejder, L., Wahlberg, M., Aguilar Soto, N., Johnson, M. and Madsen, P.T. (2009) Vessel noise effects on delphinid communication. Marine Ecology Progress Series 395, 161175.
Karpouzli, E. (1996) An assessment of the status of a bottlenose dolphin community, Tursiops truncatus, in the Southern Kvarneric Sea (Northern Adriatic). MSc thesis. Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Lemon, M., Lynch, T.P., Cato, D.H. and Harcourt, R.G. (2006) Response of travelling bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus, to experimental approaches by a powerboat in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Biological Conservation 127, 363–327.
Lloret, J., Zaragoza, N., Caballero, D. and Riera, V. (2008) Impacts of recreational boating on the marine environment of Cap de Creus (Mediterranean Sea). Ocean and Coastal Management 51, 749754.
Mattson, M., Thomas, J. and Aubin, D. (2005) Effects of boat activity on the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in waters surrounding Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Aquatic Mammals 31, 133140.
Mikačić, V. (1994) Otočni turizam Hrvatske [Island Tourism in Croatia]. Društvena istraživanja 3, 517529.
Morisaka, T., Masanori, S., Nakahara, F. and Akamatsu, T. (2005) Effects of ambient noise on the whistles of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin populations. Journal of Mammalogy 86, 541546.
Perrin, W.F., Würsig, B. and Thewissen, J.G.M. (2008) Encyclopedia of marine mammals. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Picciulin, M., Sebastianutto, L., Codarin, A., Farina, A. and Ferrero, E.A. (2010) In-situ behavioral responses to boat noise exposure of Gobius cruentatus (Gmelin, 1789; fam. Gobiidae) and Chromis chromis (Linnaeus, 1758; fam. Pomacentridae) living in a Marine Protected Area. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 386, 125132.
Popper, A.N. and Hastings, M.C. (2009) The effects of human-generated sound on fish. Integrative Zoology 4, 4352.
Rako, N. (2006) Annual characterization of the sea ambient noise (S.A.N.) in Lošinj-Cres archipelago (Croatia) as a potential source of bottlenose dolphin behavioural disturbance. MSc thesis. University of Trieste, Italy.
Ribeiro, S., Viddi, F.A. and Freitas, T.R.O. (2005) Behavioural responses of Chilean dolphins, Cephalorhynchus entropia, to boats in Yaldad Bay, Southern Chile. Aquatic Mammals 31, 234242.
Richardson, W.J. and Würsig, B. (1997) Influences of man-made noise and other human actions on cetacean behaviour. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 29, 183209.
Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr, Malme, C.I. and Thompson, D.H. (1995) Marine mammals and noise. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Slabbekoorn, H., Bouton, N., van Opzeeland, I., Coers, A., ten Cate, C. and Popper, A. (2010) A noisy spring: the impact of globally rising underwater sound levels on fish. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25, 419427.
Tasker, M.L., Amundin, M., Andre, M., Hawkins, A., Lang, W., Merck, T., Scholik- Schlomer, A., Teilmann, J., Thomsen, F., Werner, S. and Zakharia, M. (2010) Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Task Group 11 Report, Underwater noise and other forms of energy (JRC Scientific and Technical Reports), EUR 24341 EN, 55 pp.
Tyack, P.L. (2008) Implications for marine mammals of large-scale changes in the marine acoustic environment. Journal of Mammalogy 89, 549558.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Rako Supplementary Material

 Word (62 KB)
62 KB

Spatial and temporal variability of sea ambient noise as an anthropogenic pressure index: the case of the Cres-Lošinj archipelago, Croatia

  • Nikolina Rako (a1), Marta Picciulin (a2), Ivica Vilibić (a3) and Caterina M. Fortuna (a1) (a4)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed