How Can Better Forest Management Reduce Noise from Wind Turbines?

Greg Howard
23rd June, 2024

How Can Better Forest Management Reduce Noise from Wind Turbines?

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from the University of Eastern Finland explored how different types of vegetation and land cover in southern Ontario, Canada, can reduce noise pollution across summer, fall, and winter
  • Forests showed significant noise reduction in summer due to dense foliage, but this effect decreased in winter when trees were bare
  • Tallgrass prairies also demonstrated effective noise reduction, suggesting they could be a viable alternative for urban noise mitigation strategies
Noise pollution is a growing concern in urban and peri-urban areas, impacting both human health and wildlife. To address this issue, recent research from the University of Eastern Finland has explored the noise attenuation capabilities of various types of vegetation and land cover across different seasons[1]. This study aims to provide insights into how different environments can be leveraged to mitigate noise pollution effectively. The study examined three dominant land covers in southern Ontario, Canada: forest, tallgrass prairie, and agricultural land. These environments were tested for their ability to attenuate noise across three seasons: summer, fall, and winter. Noise attenuation refers to the reduction of noise intensity as it travels through a medium, in this case, different types of vegetation and land cover. The research found that noise attenuation is influenced by a complex interaction of land cover type and season. For example, forests, which are traditionally considered effective at reducing noise, showed varying levels of attenuation depending on the season. In summer, the dense foliage provided significant noise reduction, but this effect diminished in winter when the trees were bare. Interestingly, tallgrass prairies also showed promising noise attenuation capabilities, suggesting that they could be a viable alternative in urban planning[2]. This study builds on previous research that has highlighted the impact of noise pollution on wildlife. For instance, the noise generated by timber harvesting has been shown to disturb sensitive species such as the Cinereous vulture in Spain[3]. In that study, noise modeling tools were used to assess the spatial propagation of noise from chainsaws and the subsequent impact on nesting sites. The findings suggested that noise levels could be managed more effectively by considering the specific characteristics of the landscape. The University of Eastern Finland's study extends these findings by demonstrating that not only forests but also other types of vegetation like tallgrass prairies can be effective in noise attenuation. This is particularly relevant for urban planners looking to incorporate green spaces into city designs to mitigate noise pollution. The seasonal variability observed in the study underscores the importance of considering the time of year when planning noise reduction strategies. Furthermore, the study's findings align with research on the health effects of noise pollution from wind turbines. While wind turbines are generally not considered harmful to human health when sited correctly, audible noise can still cause annoyance and sleep disturbances at levels above 40 dB(A)[4]. This reinforces the need for effective noise mitigation strategies in both urban and rural settings. To conduct the study, researchers used a combination of field measurements and noise modeling. They measured noise levels at various sites representing the different land covers and analyzed how these levels changed across seasons. The data revealed that while vegetation density plays a role in noise attenuation, other factors such as the type of land cover and its specific characteristics are also crucial. In summary, the research from the University of Eastern Finland provides valuable insights into how different types of land cover can be used to mitigate noise pollution. By considering the complex interactions between land cover type and season, urban planners can develop more effective strategies for reducing noise in urban and peri-urban environments. This study not only expands our understanding of noise attenuation but also offers practical solutions for creating quieter, more livable cities.



Main Study

1) How can optimized forest management plan regulate noise levels from wind turbines?

Published 22nd June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Noise attenuation varies by interactions of land cover and season in an urban/peri-urban landscape.

3) Incorporating acoustic objectives into Forest Management Planning when sensitive bird species are relevant.

4) Wind turbines and human health.

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