Photo: NPS staff monitoring noise levels along the road to West Yellowstone.

The natural soundscape of Greater Yellowstone includes elk bugling associated with mating and still winter days. Here, a researcher monitors noise levels along the road to West Yellowstone.

NPS/Neal Herbert


The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has many biological sounds with important ecological functions for reproduction and survival. Birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects often need to hear or produce sounds to attract mates, detect predators, find prey, and/or defend territories. The occurrence of sounds in a particular area forms the soundscape.

The natural soundscape of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem delights visitors during the fall elk rut, during birds' spring choruses, along rushing streams, and in the still and profoundly quiet days and nights of winter. Natural soundscapes are a resource and are protected by National Park Service policies. Many park visitors come to national parks to enjoy serenity and solitude and expect to hear sounds of nature. Sounds associated with human activity, including road traffic, aircraft, and snowmobiles often impact these natural soundscapes and are an important and growing source of concern. Aircraft noise, which is the most widespread human-caused sound in the park, is heard on average for less than 10 percent of the day. Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks initiated a soundscape monitoring program in 2003.


More Information

Ambrose, S, and S. Burson. 2004. Soundscape studies in National Parks. George Wright Forum 21:1 29–38.

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