Protecting the beautiful rivers, wild lands and legendary botanical diversity of Oregon's Kalmiopsis Country

Soundscapes in Kalmiopsis Country

A rare deep quiet

The wild country of the Kalmiopsis may be some of the quietest in the nation. The visitor often finds a land of deep silences broken only by the natural soundscape. It’s a rare quality that’s often not found elsewhere, including in many of our National Parks.

On a still day, you can stand on the highest point in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness—and the North and South Kalmiopsis Roadless Areas—and hear the faint murmur of the Wild and Scenic Illinois and Chetco Rivers, flowing through their deep canyons far below.

Many parts of the Illinois River Valley are also relatively quiet as populated area go.The forests of the interspersed federal public lands muffle the sounds of civilization and provide a backdrop of priceless natural soundscapes.

While the soundscapes of the Kalmiopsis Country have yet to be recorded, mapped or studied, those that seek out its Wilderness or roadless lands can testify to the deep quiet of the place. We need to preserve the quiet and natural soundscapes like the rest of these nationally important landscapes.

Why preserve the quiet and natural soundscapes of Kalmiopsis County?

There is a growing body of scientists who believe sound has profound effect on the environment and on human health. The National Park Service is leading the way with their Natural Sounds Program. The Park Service webpage has a wealth of information on soundscapes, including a section on noise pollution.

Noise knows no boundaries.” It is impossible to see, difficult to define, and even harder to regulate. But for all of its esoteric qualities, recent studies are revealing surprising impacts of noise on park resources and visitor experiences. The summaries provided on the Effects of Noise in our national parks will provide you with an idea of the importance of sound and the impacts of noise to wildlife, visitors, and cultural and historic resources.

The new science of soundscape ecology

Soundscape ecologists are able able to measure the health of an ecosystem by its soundscape. Listen to this NPR program “Scientist tune into the voices of the landscape.“.

Audio engineers and sound ecologists are beginning to  map soundscapes, like we do landscapes. In Soundscape Ecology: The Science of Sound in the Landscape, Bryan C. Pijanowski writes:

Since its conception, landscape ecology has focused on the interaction of pattern and ecological processes across large spatial regions (Urban et al. 1987, Turner 1989, Turner et al. 2001, Farina 2006). Many of the basic principles of soundscape ecology are common to those of landscape ecology. These include the assignment of a soundscape to a geographic context, the identification of anthropogenic and biological processes and spectral and temporal patterns in the soundscape, how disturbance alters patterns and processes across scales, the emphasis on interactions between biological and anthropogenic factors, how organisms perceive spatial configuration in landscapes, and the need to develop tools to quantify pattern.

Pijanowski is at the Human-Environment Modeling and Analysis Laboratory, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The article includes numerous soundscape samples from far flung places. It closes with:

We also argue that society should value natural soundscapes as it does other aspects of nature. Soundscapes represent the heritage of our planet’s acoustic biodiversity, and reflect Earth’s natural assemblage of organisms—soundscapes are an ecosystem service (MA 2005) that provides cultural and other services. Natural sounds are our auditory link to nature, and the trends toward increasing society’s “nature deficient disorder” (Louv 2008) are likely to continue as we replace natural sounds with those made by humans. This research reflects again on Rachel Carson’s call made in Silent Spring, in which she highlighted the dangers of pesticides and their potential threat to wildlife and the environment. The unintended silencing of organisms by a myriad of human activities provides yet another indication of our impact on the planet’s ecosystems.

Additional Resources

Updated 12/28/2014. This page is under construction. Please check back.