Assessing the impact of festival music on bat activity.
Sound is a critical component of an animal's habitat, where it is used to glean important environmental information from their surroundings. The modification of natural soundscapes due to the global rise in anthropogenic noise pollution over recent decades can have serious negative impacts on species fitness and survival. Nocturnal species such as bats are reliant on sound for many aspects of their life history and are, therefore, highly sensitive to anthropogenic noise. Music festivals are a source of unregulated and potentially harmful, acute noise pollution; however, they have become ubiquitous across our landscapes throughout the summer months and are increasingly being held in settings important for wildlife. Using an experimental approach, we provide the first evidence of the negative impacts of music festivals on bat activity in a habitat that represents a typical festival setting, that is, woodland edge. We found that loud music playback alone can reduce the activity of bats even in the absence of other anthropogenic factors commonly associated with music festivals such as lighting and habitat disturbance. Activity of Nyctalus/Eptesicus spp. was reduced along woodland edge habitats exposed to loud music, whereas no effect was recorded for Myotis spp., Pipistrellus pygmaeus and Pipistrellus pipistrellus compared with quiet nights. We also provide the first evidence of the spatial scale of negative effects from festival music on activity for P. pygmaeus as well as highlighting differential responses between cryptic species. In light of the paucity of research or guidance into acute noise impacts on nocturnal biodiversity, we outline the potential negative impacts of music festivals for bats. We show that music alone can reduce the activity of bats even in the absence of other anthropogenic factors commonly associated with music festivals, which could potentially fragment important habitats for certain species, leading to a degradation of functional connectivity across the landscape.