Università degli Studi di Pavia

Centro Interdisciplinare di Bioacustica e Ricerche Ambientali

Via Taramelli 24 - 27100 Pavia - Italy
email : cibra@unipv.it


Bioacoustics is a branch of zoology, strictly related to ethology, that investigates sound production and reception in animals, including man, and how animals communicate by means of sound. Bioacoustics also concerns the organs of hearing and the sound producing apparata as well as the physiological processes by which sounds are produced and received for communication as well as for echolocation purposes. Finally, it attempts to understand relationships between the features of the sounds an animal produces and the nature of the environment in which they are used and the functions they are designed to serve. Its development dates effectively from about 1950, when practical recording and analyzing methods became readily available to the scientific community.

Underwater Bioacoustics

Underwater bioacoustics studies the acoustic behaviour of acquatic animals and the acoustic features of the underwater environment in which they emit sounds. In the underwater environment acoustic communication plays a crucial role: the high propagation speed (about 1500 m/sec, five times than in air) and the low attenuation with distance allow an effective acoustic transmission of signals. Many texts of acoustics, electroacoustics and bioacoustics may be consulted to get a better knowledge of underwater acoustics; among them: Urick (1983), Au (1993), Richardson et al. (1995).

Acoustic Ecology

Acoustic ecology is a branch of bioacoustics that studies the acoustic relationships among animals and their environment. In recent years Acoustic Ecology is more and more concerned with the impact of anthropogenic noise on the animal communities, either in air and underwater.


As a landscape is what we visually perceive of an environment; a soundscape is the acoustic perception of an environment. A soundscape is created by all the sounds generated by the elements composing the environment; a natural soundscape includes all the animal voices and noises, and all the noises generated by the other natural components of the environment: the wind, the water flows, the rain, etc.

A soundscape can include sounds and noises produced by the human presence; in some case those sounds add further details to the acoustic picture, but in other cases thay may disturb animal life, and human beings too.

Natural soundscapes can be contaminated by the noise produced by human activities and the noise may interfere with the communicative sounds used by animals (masking) and may have an impact on their life. High noise levels may have a severe impact on natural habitats; this is particularly true in underwater habitats where sound propagates well and animals use sound as a primary system to communicate, navigate and find food.

Within the frame of the Soundscape Project, CIBRA promotes the valorization of educational trails where to discover valuable natural habitats and listen to their natural sounds. See the page on educational trails .

To learn more about Bioacoustics and related disciplines download the following book chapter:

Obrist M.K., Pavan G., Sueur J., Riede K., Llusia D. & Márquez R., 2010. Bioacoustic approaches in biodiversity inventories. In: Manual on Field Recording Techniques and Protocols for All Taxa Biodiversity Inventories, Abc Taxa, Vol. 8: 68-99.


Equipment for bioacoustic research

CIBRA Home Page

Created August 2005; updated August 2011.