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Experimental chronic noise is related to elevated fecal corticosteroid metabolites in lekking male greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus).

  • Author(s): Blickley, Jessica L
  • Word, Karen R
  • Krakauer, Alan H
  • Phillips, Jennifer L
  • Sells, Sarah N
  • Taff, Conor C
  • Wingfield, John C
  • Patricelli, Gail L
  • et al.
Abstract

There is increasing evidence that individuals in many species avoid areas exposed to chronic anthropogenic noise, but the impact of noise on those who remain in these habitats is unclear. One potential impact is chronic physiological stress, which can affect disease resistance, survival and reproductive success. Previous studies have found evidence of elevated stress-related hormones (glucocorticoids) in wildlife exposed to human activities, but the impacts of noise alone are difficult to separate from confounding factors. Here we used an experimental playback study to isolate the impacts of noise from industrial activity (natural gas drilling and road noise) on glucocorticoid levels in greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), a species of conservation concern. We non-invasively measured immunoreactive corticosterone metabolites from fecal samples (FCMs) of males on both noise-treated and control leks (display grounds) in two breeding seasons. We found strong support for an impact of noise playback on stress levels, with 16.7% higher mean FCM levels in samples from noise leks compared with samples from paired control leks. Taken together with results from a previous study finding declines in male lek attendance in response to noise playbacks, these results suggest that chronic noise pollution can cause greater sage-grouse to avoid otherwise suitable habitat, and can cause elevated stress levels in the birds who remain in noisy areas.

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