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4 recordings that prove you can hear environmental change as well as see it

A couple explores nature.
A couple explores nature.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Not only can you see how an ecosystem changes over time, but you can hear it, too.

Published today, Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes, by Bernie Krause, describes his decades-long quest to record remote landscapes around the world. For him, these animal recordings are an audio argument for conservation. Some of the most interesting recordings, which are noted throughout the book, show how various habitats' sounds have changed. You can listen to more or hear the examples below.

Hear a meadow before and after selective logging

Krause recorded the Lincoln meadow in June 1988:

And then after logging, in June 1989. Listen for the relative silence:

Drought can silence an ecosystem

Krause sampled sounds in April 2004, 2009, and 2014 at a stream in Sugarloaf State Park in California. In 2014, a drought dries up the river, and the birdsongs disappear.

But soundscapes can also create discoveries

Krause and others' soundscapes often reveal environmental destruction. And at their best, the recordings can reveal new aspects of nature.

For example, in the 2010s, Krause and Martyn Stewart set up a recording at Spread Creek Pond just North of Jackson, Wyoming. The region had changed dramatically since Krause first visited in the 1970s, a transformation he attributes to climate change. But in that new recording, they heard a species thought to be regionally extinct: the Wyoming toad.

Even today we can hear new things, as long as we listen.