The effects of railway modernization and noise pollution on forest birds
Wpływ rozwoju kolei i hałasu na ptaki leśne
Sylwan 166 (8):524-536, 2022
Available online: 2022-12-16
Open Access (CC-BY)
birds • edge−effect • forest • noise

Railway lines act in different, often opposing, ways on the fauna and flora occupying the habitats adjacent to them. The expansion of rail infrastructure destroys the natural habitats in the land designated for that purpose. Forest habitats are particularly at risk. Birds and other animals are killed in collisions with trains; they are also indirectly affected by their noise and lights, and by the presence of people. On the other hand, railway lines can have positive consequences, creating edge effects as well as anthropogenic niches which birds can take advantage of. Whereas various elements of the infrastructure can provide good nesting sites, look−out posts or roosts, the habitats it brings about can also turn out to be ecological traps, increasing the mortality of animals. In this paper we discuss the results of a study that we carried out during the rebuilding of a busy railway line in the absence of train movements. The results relate to the effect of noise emitted by construction machinery and the presence of people on an assemblage of woodland birds. As the study was performed on a plot previously used when trains were running normally, we were able to compare the results of two studies carried out by the same researchers on the same plot using the same methodology. Birds were counted at 45 listening/observation points situated at three distances from the tracks (30, 280 and 530 m). At each point we measured the noise level and assessed the habitat parameters. We recorded a total of 806 birds from 39 species during all the counts. The highest levels of noise were recorded alongside the railway line that was being modernised. The noise produced by the heavy construction machinery did not affect the numbers or species diversity of birds in the neighbourhood of the line and none of the 11 habitat factors influenced the distribution of birds on the study plot. Birds with low−frequency vocalisations, easily masked by the noise from the construction site, avoided the vicinity of the tracks. Moreover, a consequence of the noise and the transformation of the habitats within the transport corridor where building work was in progress was that particular bird species did not display any apparent preference for spending time either near the tracks or deep in the forest. The removal of bushes and herbaceous vegetation from both sides of the tracks in connection with the construction work caused a deterioration in foraging conditions and a distinct attenuation of the edge effect. The upshot was that the birds were more seriously affected by noise, the edge effect was weaker and the distribution of birds more even in comparison to the situation when trains were running normally.

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